In a competitive market for highly skilled IT workers, what can organizations do to retain top talent? Is throwing more money at them the solution? What if they are already well compensated?
When 2,600 Linux IT pros were recently asked by the Linux Foundation and technology recruiter Dice what they considered the top three incentives for staying in their current jobs, their answers were: more money (74 percent), better work/life balance (61 percent) and a flexible work schedule or telecommuting (47 percent). Also highly cited, opportunities for professional development, especially if they resulted in advancement. [You can see the full survey results in the 2013 Linux Jobs Report.]
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To find out whether it was just money and flexibility that IT workers were looking for, or something else, CIO.com queried dozens of IT recruiters and executives. Here are their top eight suggestions for how to keep IT talent happy -- and staying put.
1. Include them in decisions. "Good engineers are almost always opinionated," explains Eddie Cole, vice president, Engineering, Scribe Software, a CRM integrator. "They [want] to be listened to [and place a] high value on being allowed to make some calls," he adds. Therefore, to keep them happy, "top talent needs to be provided a platform to contribute towards solutions," says Chandika Mendis, senior vice president, Technology at Virtusa, a global IT services company.
2. Don't micromanage. "Excellent developers know how to create the best solution to a problem," explains Simon Tam, the CTO of Ritani, a high-end jewelry brand. Tell your team the desired result -- or the challenge you need resolved -- and let them come up with the solution, instead of telling them how the problem should be handled. This allows them to "feel like [they are] in charge of their own path forward," he says. And "when developers feel empowered to create the path, their satisfaction increases significantly."
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3. Offer flexible work hours. "Offering flexible work hours is a key reason why we [and many other companies] have been able to hire and retain top IT talent in an increasingly competitive market," says Cary DeShon, director of Recruiting, Axis Technical Group, an IT solutions advisor.
"Some of our U.S.-based project managers collaborate with offshore and near-shore teams that require them to work outside a typical nine-to-five schedule.
Other colleagues need flexible hours so that they can effectively balance work and family commitments," DeShon says. "Offering this benefit pays off in having happier, more productive team members."
4. Invest in training. "Provide [IT staff] with the tools and training to stay at the forefront of technological trends," advises Joe Muldowney, recruitment development manager at IT staffing agency Modis. "Employees within the IT industry generally have a passion for technology and look for positions which afford them the best opportunities to learn and gain exposure to the hottest offerings on the market," he says. "A common complaint of unsatisfied IT talent, regardless of skill set or discipline, is that their company does not see the value of investing in IT."
5. Provide access to new technologies. IT workers "are invigorated by the chance to work with the latest and greatest technology," explains Josh Linton, vice president, Technology at VLCM, a technology reseller. So if you want to make them happy, or keep them interested, give them access to the latest technologies and equipment (provided they do not violate company security or privacy policies).
6. Give praise and acknowledge contributions. "Victories, whether small or large, should be celebrated and praised in the department and in the company on a whole," advocates Charley Polachi, partner at Polachi Access Executive Search. "Employees that feel recognized and appreciated are happier and will feel more loyalty to their company."
"One of the most important things the CIO can do to retain key IT personnel is to recognize contributions, so team members feel that their contributions are meaningful, appreciated and in synch with the enterprise's mission," adds Todd Weinman, the founder and president of executive search firm The Weinman Group.
"While financial recognition is always appreciated, there are many other ways to recognize contributions that won't impact bottom line," he explains. "Recognizing individual contributions at staff meetings, bringing a team member's contributions to the attention of senior management, mentioning it in a company newsletter or Intranet, or even having a one-on-one conversation can all be effective ways to make a team member feel valued."
7. Offer free stuff. "Free perks such as pizza on Fridays, free massages or $50 gas credit may seem insignificant; however, they create a sense of appreciation and value for the employees," says Frank Philips, director of Mobility Solutions at InfoVision, a Dallas-based IT firm and app-development provider.
8. Provide a competitive compensation package. "Though not everyone is motivated purely by salary these days, it is still an important part of retention to make sure your people are being paid competitively for their skills," explains Tracy Cashman, partner and general manager in the Information Technology Search division of recruitment firm WinterWyman.
"Depending on your company's system, this could include base salary, yearly bonus and/or stock," Cashman says. Additionally, consider "building in project-based bonuses to your budget so that you can reward staff during the course of the year for a job well done."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.