How to retain IT staff

Hint: Money is not always the answer.

At two recent conferences I participated in panels addressing the issue of how to retain IT staff. It is obviously a hot and relevant topic.

All agreed that increasing salaries is only a short-term solution. An organization needs to develop a total compensation strategy that is not just about money but also addresses how to engage the employee in what the organization is doing while at the same time ensuring the employee feels appreciated.

While government organizations can’t match the private sector’s salary scale, they can offer other benefits such as flexible hours, better pension plans and better job security. Working from home for a couple of days a week is also a valuable benefit.

One of the programs that is highly valued by IT staff is to support them in keeping up with technology advances. This also benefits the organisation as their staff will be able to use these skills on the job. Offer tuition assistance and encourage IT staff to enhance their skills or learn new ones.

Something that doesn’t cost any money but is important to IT staff is publicly and genuinely acknowledging their hard work. They also appreciate hearing how their work directly contributes to the organization’s goals. This will give more meaning to what they do and help them feel good about the importance of their work and how it relates to their organization’s success.

To many IT people maintaining a good work-life balance is more important than money. Find out if this an issue and use it as an additional benefit.

While most organisations do exit interviews with departing employees, only a few do “happy” interviews with a few of their current staff to find out what aspects of the organization have led them to choose to stay. Once a trend or benefit is identified, enhance it and talk about it at staff meetings and the company’s employee’s portal. This may further enhance employee retention.

No, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for retaining IT staff. One key lesson I have observed is just providing a salary increase will not ensure that your IT staff will stay. But if you use some of the techniques above, at least they know that they are appreciated and are more likely to stay.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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