The Mathematics of Recruitment and Training

The PHP jobs market is hot, very many people find it hard to recruit the skilled staff that they need to achieve the goals of their organisation. I meet a wide variety of organisations in this technology space, and they all tell me the same story: it’s really difficult to get good, qualified people. And I believe that this is true, I know plenty of developers too and although I’ll usually try to put people in touch where it makes sense to do so, it’s not as if there is a great reservoir of hidden PHP talent somewhere.

This isn’t a rant about salaries, the skills of new graduates, or the trials of dealing with recruiters, although each of those is worth a post in itself. It’s about the mathematics of providing your organisation with the talent it needs at the time that it needs it.

Shaping the Perfect Recruit

Sometimes, you just can’t get the staff. Or rather, you can, but at >25% more salary than your organisation can really pay. Now you have three choices:

  • Get someone not-really-qualified and turn out not-really-excellent work
  • Get someone not-really-qualified, and then spend yet more money on getting them more qualified
  • Get someone qualified, and absorb the costs

Let’s put some numbers on those options, looking around it seems like a junior PHP developer in my area earns something between 18k and 24k (GBP). If you can employ someone not qualified on 18k whom we’ll call Charlie, or someone qualified on 24k whom we’ll call Alex, and we assume that they stay with the organisation for three years and get a 3% pay rise every year then your costs over those three years become:

Charlie: £55636.20
Alex: £74181.60

Both employees gain much from working in your organisation from three years, but Alex is still worth more than Charlie at the end of the time.

Now consider a third way. You still employ Charlie on 18k, but you set aside an additional annual budget for training and professional development, in this example this is a thousand pounds pear year. It’s not a lot, but with a bit of luck this should cover a decent training course, more than a handful books, and maybe a relevant local event too. The total cost over three years:

Charlie++: £58636.20

At the end of three years, for very little (financial) input, you’ve got a much improved junior employee, ready to take on a much more senior role – although you might want to pay them a bit more in order to stop them jumping ship for another job now they have more skills! As a direct comparison, the three options look something like this:

Three options for recruitment and training

On a very personal note, the jobs I’ve stayed in the longest are the ones where I was promoted internally (officially, or where I was trusted with more challenging tasks) and in web development, the churn of employees is much higher than it is in other places. By investing in your employees and persuading them to stay, the business continues to reap the benefits of the investment, rather than continuously investing in lining the pockets of recruiters. Getting the right staff does cost money, but whether you direct that money into your business or outside of it is up to you.

(This isn’t the point of the article, I think these ideas apply to businesses everywhere, but if you’d like to check out my training pages, then you may)

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