If you don’t give staff time to recharge their batteries, they burn out. It’s one reason why Goerlich requires his staff to put aside 20% of their time for skills development. He hit on that number back when he ran a consultancy. In those days, he’d have a certain type of consultant out billing “rock-solid” hours, flat-out, wall-to-wall.

They tended to be the young ones.

They’d last six months.

Goerlich noticed that his consultants who weren’t maxing out on hours were hitting the mark at about 60% billable hours. Those people spent about 20% of their time recharging. “Those are people that, year after year, they didn’t have high peaks, but they maintained billables in the high level--say, the top 10%--while the others were going gangbusters for six months and burning out.”

Goerlich wants his current team to match that: Put the majority of yourself into your projects, then put at least 20% aside to get training and to just plain catch your breath.

“There’s a lot of work to get done,” Goerlich said. “It’s almost like a Chinese finger puzzle: You pull too hard, and you can’t get out. You put in too many hours, you get diminishing returns.”

He hasn’t lost a key member in a tenure of five years. He credits the training regime as one of the reasons the financial services firm has a high level of IT staff retention. “I tend to have a very motivated team,” he said. “It astonishes me how much they put into the environment, into their jobs. But then, it’s very stressful to try to do work when you don’t know what you’re doing. If you don’t have the confidence that you know what you’re doing, you can’t be creative.”

via I Like My IT Budget Tight and My Developers Stupid. Hat tip to Cal Evans.

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