Taming Turnover

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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Employment conditions are positive. The latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report showed the second highest net increase in hiring activity since the third quarter of 2002—and technology professionals are taking note.

Many IT professionals have discovered their expertise is in high demand, prompting them to re-evaluate their current positions. In fact, a poll by the Computing Technology Industry Association showed that 58% of IT professionals are unhappy with their jobs and are actively searching for new work.

Are your employees in this group?

If you don’t have a clear strategy for retaining your staff members, you may lose them in this competitive market. Here are some ways to create the type of work environment that convinces talented IT staff members to stay:

Support Ongoing Learning

When Robert Half recently asked CIOs what steps they’re taking (if any) to retain key IT staff, the top response was providing training or professional development opportunities.

Don’t underestimate the impact this small step can have on your retention efforts. The rapid pace of technological change makes it critical that employees be given the tools to keep their skills current. And technology professionals, in particular, are driven to learn about the latest products and trends affecting their work.

Providing in-person or online training seminars is a good start. However, you must ensure that your company truly supports continuing education. Encourage employees to pursue training regularly and discuss how it can benefit their careers.

In addition, make it easy for staff to follow through. IT departments are notoriously busy, so it won’t matter how much money you allocate for training if employees feel they don’t have the time to pursue it. Be willing to make readjustments to workloads and schedules to allow your staff to complete professional development programs.

Address Work/Life Balance

The second most popular step to retain IT professionals is offering flexible schedules. This can mean providing staggered work hours or giving people the opportunity to come in and leave early on occasion.

Many employees are faced with personal obligations, such as caring for children and elderly relatives, and providing balance can boost their loyalty to the company.

If possible, you might also allow employees to telecommute. Just be sure that your policies are in writing and clarify conditions under which this type of arrangement will be approved. Otherwise, you may damage morale if people think favoritism plays a role in determining who gets to take advantage of this perk.

Boost Pay

Money talks. True, pay is not the sole reason people are motivated to look for new employment opportunities, but people whose salaries are below the industry standard may question whether their work is truly valued and decide to move on.

At least once a year, you should reassess pay levels in your group. Review salary surveys, such as the Robert Half Technology 2007 Salary Guide (to request a free copy, please visit www.rht.com), trade association reports and government data to make sure the compensation you offer is in line with the current market.

Taking it a step further and offering compensation higher than your competitors can give you an edge in keeping key employees.

Provide Interesting Work

People want to be involved in assignments that are meaningful and motivating. So, talk to your employees regularly to find out what interests them on an individual basis and support those interests as much as possible.

Showing that you genuinely care about your workers’ career goals can play a key role in retention.

One way to keep staff engaged in their work is to encourage them to take on new projects that challenge their abilities. For instance, you might ask a network administrator with management potential to take the lead on an upcoming initiative.

Employees will stay motivated, and your firm will benefit from the increased contributions.

You may also want to conduct periodic surveys of your employees, either formally or informally, to find out what factors are most important to their job satisfaction and what changes they’d like to see at your company. Soliciting their input can help you stay on top of any potential problems and keep morale high and turnover low.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.