Skills Development Practices and Engineer Turnover: Insights Into Tunisian IT Services Companies

Skills Development Practices and Engineer Turnover: Insights Into Tunisian IT Services Companies

Rihab Kchaou (University of Sfax, Tunisia) and Susanne Durst (University of Skövde, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8012-6.ch003
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This chapter investigates the skills development practices and their relationship with engineer turnover in IT services companies (henceforth ITSC) from Tunisia. It presents a qualitative analysis of data that derived from a number of interviews conducted with human resource managers of these companies. Based on the findings, four human resources management (HRM) practices were identified that seemingly contribute to skills development in the firms investigated, which are recruitment, training, inter-project mobility, inter-firm cooperation. The findings indicate that these practices can also reduce engineer turnover rates. The chapter provides fresh insights into HRM practices of Tunisian companies, which has not attracted much attention yet.
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The information communication and technology (ICT) sector represents one of the most dynamic areas in Tunisia and is among those sectors whose growth rate was equal to 11% in 2014 (Charfi, 2017). Unlike other sectors such as agriculture and tourism, which have been negatively affected after the Tunisian revolution the Tunisian ICT sector has evolved from 5% in 2006 up to 11% in 2012 (Charfi, 2017). In this chapter, the researchers particularly interested in computer services and engineering companies (IT services companies: also known in the literature as IT services and software engineering companies) as this type of business enterprise has a prominent place in the ICT sector and employs advanced skills and field-specific knowledge (Coeurderoy & Chertman, 1997). As Lachance (2011, p. 9) points out: “The success of a company inevitably depends on its ability to acquire the skills necessary for its growth, to retain them and to develop them” (quoted in Giraud, 2012, p. 20).

The recruitment and retention of high-level employees are becoming increasingly difficult (Hiltorop, 2000), this refers to Tunisia as well. Therefore, to acquire, develop and retain skills, organizations make use of HRM practices such as training, recruitment, mobility, among others (Chaabouni & Jouili, 2005). IT services companies operate in a competitive environment that can have an impact on the attractiveness and retention of critical skills (Pronier et al., 2006). Nowadays, the preservation of skilled employees is a pressing challenge for all the types of firms, smaller private ones as well as large ones (Reina et al., 2017). Turnover, in particular, can be a problem for IT services companies, because when their employees quit their job, they take along with them their professional experience, knowledge, and skills as well as relational capital (Irani & Love, 2001; Durst & Wilhelm, 2012; Laulié & Morgeson, 2018). In addition, some researchers believe that a high turnover rate can have a negative impact on company performance (Kown et al., 2012; Mohr et al., 2012; Lee et al., 2017). Similarly, Martinez (2006) and Demiral (2018) argued that turnover is detrimental to IT services companies for various reasons, namely direct and indirect costs associated with employee departures, loss of productivity and the scarcity of experienced IT professionals on the labor market.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tunisia: Tunisia or officially the Republic of Tunisia is a sovereign state in Northwest Africa. The population was estimated to be just fewer than 11.93 million in 2016. The Tunisian Political revolution from early 2011 has been regarded as a positive example of peaceful transformation. On December 10, 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Tunisian Quartet to support its work to keep the revolution on a democratic track. But this young democracy does not escape some problems. For example, Tunisian youths still lament a lack of progress, corruption, joblessness and the escalating cost of living. More than 625,000 people are currently out of work, almost half of them with university degrees. So, Tunisia needs more time to manage this transition.

Cooperation Between Enterprises: It can be defined as an agreement, established from a long-term perspective, involving interaction between members of independent organizations that merge or jointly deploy intangible and tangible assets to fulfil the objective of the agreement and to reach common and individual goals.

IT Services Companies: These are companies’ expert in the field of new technologies and informatics. It may include several trades (council, design, and realization of tools, maintenance, or training) and has the primary objective to accompany a client company in the understanding of a project.

Inter-Project Mobility: It is the movement of employees within the same organization.

Recruitment: It the process whereby an organization attempts to attract human resources that have the necessary skills to fill a job vacancy.

Turnover: It is the termination of the working relationship between the employee and his/her employer.

Training: It can be defined as a set of actions through which individuals develop their skills, acquire, enrich and improve their knowledge and qualifications according to their own needs and those of the business firm.

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