CIOs Reveal Effective Retention Strategies for Skilled IT Staff

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Attractive pay is the most effective way to improve IT staff retention, according to a recent survey by Robert Half Technology. While increased compensation tops the list with 27 percent, respondents reveal that professional development/training (21 percent) and flexible schedules (18 percent) also are valuable retention strategies.


Rounding off the list were telecommuting (7 percent), extra vacation days or time off (6 percent) and granting company stock or options (2 percent).


The survey — taken by 1,400 CIOs in the U.S. — was developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals.


“There’s more of a focus on retention from the managerial standpoint,” said John Estes, a vice president with Robert Half technology. “IT companies and managers need to be aware that [IT professionals are] highly skilled people. There’s big demand for them, and they can be susceptible to recruiters and other companies scooping them up.”


Employee retention needs to be an ongoing priority, especially for IT professionals with skill sets that are most in-demand, Estes said. “It can take two to three months sometimes to fill an open position — that’s just a lot of lost productivity,” he added.


More than three out of four respondents stated it was equally or more challenging to recruit skilled IT professionals compared to 2007, and the majority attributed this to a shortage of skilled workers.


The most important function of a company is to attract and retain talent, Estes said. “If [employers] don’t retain [talent], [they will] constantly be in the attracting game and on this ‘hire, lost them, hire, lost them’ treadmill,” he said.


Estes outlined strategies that companies can implement to improve retention rates among IT professionals.


“Obviously, you have got to have competitive pay,” Estes said, adding that many companies have increased base pay and added incentives such as merit pay, project completion pay and various retention bonuses.


Most IT workers look at compensation as a given, Estes said. Therefore companies need to offer them technical and professional development, flexible schedules and various “outside the box” benefits that may not cost the company a lot of money.


Technical training is one of the most beneficial things a company can provide to IT professionals, Estes said. “The speed of innovation these days is so tremendous that even if [employees are proficient in] a new software program or hardware platform, there’s going to be either an upgrade or a replacement product in a few months,” he said. “[Companies] have to have an ongoing strategy [of providing] technology training not only to make people better at their jobs, but also for employee satisfaction — to make people feel like they’re growing.”


In addition to technical training, Estes stresses the importance of business skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, managerial skills and project management skills. “Companies are looking for a much more well-rounded individual, not just a techno geek,” Estes said, adding that the days of people sitting at a desk and programming from 8 to 5 are long gone.


“Being able to juggle multiple projects at the same time, work as a team member, deal with different personalities, communicate your ideas both verbal and written — [there hasn’t been] a lot of training [in these areas], so people are hungry for this type of training that can make them better overall IT professionals,” Estes added.

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Deanna Hartley


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