Companies today have to be better than they’ve ever been at creating and implementing effective employee retention strategies.
That goes for keeping IT employees around, too. Andrew Brouse, division director of Robert Half Technology in Akron, says it’s all about offering competitive salaries and ongoing education opportunities, among other things.
Smart Business spoke with Brouse about what companies should do to create the ideal work environment that will make their IT staff commit to them for the long haul.
How important is retaining IT employees today, given the current labor market?
Employee retention should be a constant priority. An employers’ ultimate goal should be to create the type of work environment that will persuade its best IT professionals to stay regardless of economic conditions. These firms will minimize the risk of turnover and put their organization in a stronger position to meet upcoming business demands.
Workers who feel overworked, under-paid or unappreciated are most likely to leave. A-list players those with in-demand skill sets may also be tempted to explore new opportunities. They may be satisfied in their current roles and not actively looking for work, but if faced with a better offer by a competing firm, they could unexpectedly leave. Aside from lost productivity, organizations may lose skills and experience that are vital to the successful launch of new products and services and other business growth initiatives.
What is the No. 1 strategy that seems to work best in retaining IT employees?
There’s no silver bullet that will create an effective retention program. Managers should carefully assess their employees’ professional and personal needs to come up with the most appropriate and feasible strategy.
Savvy employers are developing and executing strategies that offer a variety of incentives that match their corporate culture, organizational goals and performance philosophies. Introducing initiatives to improve internal career opportunities, support work-life balance and create an attractive and interesting work environment can significantly increase retention rates. The overall aim is to create a ‘great place to work’ or to become an ‘employer of choice.’
What sort of ongoing educational opportunities can a company offer its IT work force?
Companies can assist with obtaining technical certifications (MCSE, CCNA, A+, etc.), tuition reimbursement and/or management training or other nontechnical soft skills.
What are some other perks of the job that work well to keeping IT employees around?
Offering competitive compensation packages was once considered a cure-all for retaining valued staff, but as our survey results show, it’s no longer the most popular or effective strategy.
Today’s workers value programs that support career growth and work-life balance, so companies are offering additional perks such as on-the-job training and flexible schedules. Companies are leveraging training as a retention tool more frequently because it can be more cost-effective. Not only are individual staff receiving the added value of enhancing their skill set, but companies employing training now have a more skilled, productive work force.
Companies can create a more employee-friendly culture by providing career growth and training opportunities. IT professionals are always looking for ways to keep their skills up to date so that they remain marketable to prospective clients. Companies that offer professional development opportunities demonstrate that they support their workers’ long-term success. At the same time, they’re working to improve the organization by investing in future leaders. Customizing training and career planning to each employees’ strengths and interests can be even more effective. Younger workers especially value learning opportunities compared to their baby boomer colleagues.
Companies should also work toward empowering employees to generate and implement their ideas. It’s important to let individuals take ownership of some tasks and to show trust in them. Also, they should offer flexible work hours and/or telecommuting options. While these options were once only offered by the most progressive companies, they’re becoming commonplace as organizations acknowledge their employees’ work-life balance needs.
Other things companies should consider are bringing in professionals on a project basis when full-time employees are at capacity and addressing burnout. Promoting realistic workloads, encouraging employees to ask for help, and tackling morale issues immediately can prevent employees from feeling stressed and unhappy. Promoting activities that build rapport among staff members is also a smart retention strategy. Employees who have friends at work and have positive interactions with their managers and coworkers are typically more satisfied.
ANDREW BROUSE is division director of Robert Half Technology, a specialized staffing firm in Akron. Reach him at (330) 253-8160.