How To Keep Your Best IT Staffers In House
Tech companies have a problem that's actually common to fast-growing, dynamic businesses everywhere – retaining key employees.
Credit: ShutterstockAccording to Saba, a Redwood Shores, Cal.-based talent management services provider, 49 percent of U.S. and U.K. human resources managers agreed that "retention and leadership development programs were the top priority among talent management goals, even as companies continue to suffer from significant retention challenges.
Saba reports the planned attrition rate – the number of workers gearing up to leave their companies – stands at 33 percent, a figure that should remain "consistent" during the next quarter or two.
A big part of the problem is lack of transparency, along with an old-fashioned failure to communicate between management and skilled workers.
"Human resources leaders want to know what inspires and motivates the workforce, but they don't seem to be asking them," states Adrienne Whitten, vice president of product marketing at Saba. "The problem could be a lack of the right tools or experience for gathering the data, as human resources ranks workforce analytics as the lowest in effectiveness across the talent processes."
Engagement A Key
That's especially so in the information technology sector, which has developed a reputation, industry insiders, of being tone deaf in dealing with workplace issues near and dear to the hearts of career professionals.
"Most companies don't understand how to keep information technology professionals engaged at all," notes Jeff Mitchell, a veteran support technician and currently a data analyst at JobsOnParade.com, an online tech industry-recruiting site. Mitchell says firms are lacking in IT employee retainment for myriad reasons, but job calendar management and information sharing are at the top of the list.
"I honestly believe that consistency and a proper schedule are ideal if any company truly wants to hold on to its IT talent," he says. "The whole emergence of DevOps as a concept should serve to show how little anyone knows about proper scheduling for IT teams. That's all DevOps really is – scheduling and information sharing. Companies need to figure out how to efficiently schedule work between teams in an IT environment." Workplace flexibility is another key area where companies risk losing talented IT staffers. "One of the best strategies to keep good IT help is to not penalize employees when they need to take a time out," states Monica Mizzi, a career adviser and resume expert at ResumeGenius.com.
Mizzi says that contrary to the pop culture, hipster Silicon Valley image of the profession, information technology work is often demanding, tiring and thankless work. "Working nonstop to solve both menial and fundamental IT issues can take a huge drain on workers who may crave a break, but fear retribution for doing so," she adds. "Allowing workers to take a break every so often will help them reenergize and stay focused, and will help them feel their hard work is being duly acknowledged." While cash is king, to a some extent, information technology professionals respond favorably to other non-paycheck related career drivers that help keep them on the job.
"Better technology professionals aren't always motivated by money," says Annkur Agarwal, chief executive officer at PriceBaba.com, a product engine research firm backed by 500 Startups, in Mountain View, Cal. "In fact, the best of talent is never swayed by money."
In Agarwal's experience, blending a culture of technology with community service and better-organized "team play" tend to keep skilled workers with the firm.
"We try to provide free sessions on how to manage technology and cloud better to other companies that do business with us, including our accountants firm and other small consultancies. We also organize small events and Barcamp-type sessions within the team on a monthly basis, and that has also worked very well."
What Makes IT Staffers Happy?
Kes Thygesen, co-founder at RolePoint, an information technology services company in San Francisco agrees with those sentiments, adding that employees won't leave for greener pastures when they are happy and engaged.
"However, when they start to lose their enthusiasm for their work, they start planning their exit," Thygesen says.
At RolePoint, the goal is to maintain a high morale in the workplace and to give employees what they want, he adds. "The obvious thing for employers to do is offer competitive salaries and attractive benefits, like health plans and paid leave. But you have to go a few steps further. To retain good IT help, you need to create a culture of continual education so employees can constantly challenge themselves to learn new skills and further develop their strengths."
The takeaway? Keeping IT employees engaged, informed and appreciated are the three pillars of a strong employee retainment strategy.
Make no mistake, the sooner you start building those pillars, the better.