by Mary K. Pratt

In the IT talent wars, businesses need to sweeten the pot

Apr 07, 20153 mins
CareersCIOHealthcare Industry

CIOs worried about getting and keeping top IT talent may have to boost compensation and other enticements.

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Credit: Thinkstock

CIOs worried about getting and keeping top talent may have to boost pay. The No. 1 reason good employees quit is dissatisfaction over compensation, according to a recent survey by staffing firm Robert Half International.

But before handing out massive raises, you might want to take a more nuanced look at job satisfaction. Veteran CIOs agree that pay is important, but while some contend that money is paramount, others say there are factors beyond cash that motivate individuals.

Charles Galda, CIO of Technology Centers and Services at GE Capital, says a sense of mission matters to IT professionals. “When it comes to retaining high-performing, skilled talent, employees want to feel connected to a broader purpose, feel the impact and reward from their work and feel immersed in exciting technologies and innovative business models,” Galda says.

Still, compensation is “almost always No. 1” for recruiting and retaining IT talent, says John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, the IT staffing arm of Robert Half International. All things being equal, a worker will jump for a job that offers even just a little more money, he says. The pressure is on CIOs to pony up.

Charles Christian, vice president and CIO at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga., says he has lost candidates because he couldn’t provide the pay they wanted. He tries to counter that by delivering sweeteners such as job stability and flexible schedules.

Like most employers in healthcare, St. Francis Hospital isn’t on the high end of the IT pay scale, says Christian, who is also chairman of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives board. He estimates that cash compensation for IT professionals at his organization is about 75 percent of market rates.

The nonfinancial benefits of working at the hospital help keep turnover among the 65-member IT staff at less than 5 percent, but Christian acknowledges that he still has to occasionally bump up the salaries offered to job candidates. “There were times we’d bend the pay scale because someone has a skill we needed,” he says.

Keeping turnover low

James Knight, global CIO at Chubb, a major property and casualty insurance company, says companies don’t have to offer top-of-the-scale pay to get and keep top talent. Knight, a member of the Society for Information Management’s Advanced Practices Council, says pay for 50 percent to 70 percent of his 1,300 IT employees is generally at or above market rates.

“There are definitely extremely talented people who could work elsewhere for more money, but they’re not leaving,” he says, noting that turnover is less than 3 percent because Chubb offers other important benefits–challenging work, recognition, flexibility and bonuses.

Shafiq Rab, CIO at Hackensack University Medical Center, says that if compensation is within $15,000 of market rates, an employee’s relationship with direct managers is the main factor in retention–pay is second.

To illustrate his point, he recalls an incident involving an employee who was ready to resign because she felt she didn’t receive the pay or management attention required for her position. After reviewing the situation, Rab and the employee’s manager decided that they agreed with her and chose to bump up her pay and the time she spent with the manager. She opted to stay.

“We gave her what was fair,” he says, “and because we had the right relationship, we could do right by her.”