IT staff retention

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

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.