“In today’s highly competitive IT market where the demand for talent exceeds the supply of technology workers companies are focusing not only on compensation, but also on perks like training and professional development and flexible scheduling to allow their IT employees to maintain a work/life balance,” says Heidi Higgins, branch manager at Robert Half Technology in Columbus.
Smart Business spoke with Higgins about strategies today’s businesses can use to keep their technology workers happy and prevent turnover.
What are the most effective strategies in keeping IT personnel?
The best strategy is to introduce initiatives to improve internal career opportunities, support work/life balance, and create an attractive and interesting work environment. These elements alone can significantly increase retention rates. The overall aim is to create a ‘great place to work’ or to become an ‘employer of choice.’
What is it that employees value the most about their jobs that keeps them loyal and prevents them from leaving?
Managers today are beginning to realize that company culture and manager-employee relationships matter just as much as compensation. If employees don’t look forward to coming to work each day, they’re apt to leave sooner or later, even if they’re well paid.
What do you recommend to businesses trying to retain their top high-tech employees?
One place to start is by providing career growth and training opportunities. IT professionals are always looking for ways to keep their skills up to date so they remain marketable to prospective clients. Companies that offer professional development opportunities demonstrate that they support the long-term success of their workers. At the same time, they’re working to improve the organization by investing in future leaders.
Another step companies can take is to empower employees to generate and implement their ideas. It’s important to let individuals take ownership of some tasks and to show trust in them.
As mentioned earlier, offering flexible work hours and/or telecommuting options is a step many companies in our area are taking to retain their top talent. While these options were once only offered by the most progressive companies, they are becoming commonplace, as organizations acknowledge the work/life balance needs of their employees.
Promoting activities that build rapport among staff members is another great way to help your company’s retention efforts. Employees who have friends at work and have positive interactions with their managers and coworkers are typically more satisfied. They may pass up attractive job offers to avoid sacrificing the relationships they’ve developed at work.
Is there anything specific to the technology field that could cause an IT worker to leave?
Technology is a high-burnout field, and it is important that managers address this pro-actively. This can be done by promoting realistic workloads, encouraging employees to ask for help, and tackling morale issues immediately can help prevent employees from feeling stressed and unhappy. Bringing in professionals on a project basis when full-time employees are at capacity is one way to mitigate the ‘burn-out’ factor that is common in the IT field.
How else can business owners and managers implement smart retention strategies?
Simply because compensation ranked third on our study doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. If your company’s salary levels aren’t competitive, you risk sending the message that your employees aren’t valuable to the organization’s success. Take the time to stay up to date on compensation trends by reviewing salary surveys and government data regularly. You might also consider offering performance-based bonuses to employees who have done an exceptional job.
If your company does not have a professional development program, consider providing tuition reimbursement. This encourages employees to seek further education or certification, which in turn benefits your company.
Other valued perks such as subsidized parking fees, health club memberships or meals also can be great places to start.
HEIDI HIGGINS is a branch manager with Robert Half Technology in Columbus. With more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, Robert Half Technology (www.rht.com) is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from Web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Reach Higgins at (614) 854-0020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.