How Are IT Managers Supposed To Keep Their Best Employees?

by drjim on February 10, 2011

There Are Different Ways To Keep People From Leaving Your Team…

There Are Different Ways To Keep People From Leaving Your Team…

When I talk with new IT managers, more often than not they tell me that their biggest challenge is getting good at hiring the right people for their teams. One of the reasons that this is so challenging is because it’s new to them. What they don’t know yet, is that hiring is only one side of the coin – retaining your staff is the other side and it turns that this can be an even bigger challenge.

You Are Going To Lose People

Can we talk frankly for just a minute? Do you really think that your magical IT management skills are going to keep your entire team together for as long as you work at your company? I can answer this question for you: no. You need to anticipate that you are going to be having people leave your team all the time. A good rule of thumb is to expect a turnover rate of about 15% per year. The math is pretty simple: for a team of 10 people you’ll lose 1-2 people per year, for a team of 20 people you’ll lose 3 people per year.

Remember that the rate that you lose people at may have nothing to do with your management abilities. The overall economy (both when it’s up and when it’s down) can have a big impact on how many people choose to leave your team each year.

During tough economic times, the number of people who leave your team will go down dramatically. However, this will all balance out because when the economy improves in the future you’ll lose more than your share of staff.

Why Bother With Retention?

So you are going to lose people – so what? You can’t prevent people from leaving, so is it really worth your time to try and keep people on board? The answer to this question turns out to be “yes, it is worth it”.

When a member of your team walks out the door, you are losing much more than just a set of hands – you are also losing a brain. In that brain is the knowledge of how your company does business. This so-called “intellectual property” (IP) is what makes your department / company different from every other IT department / company out there. An additional challenge is that if a team member leaves and goes to one of your competitors then all of sudden you may be competing with yourself.

Keeping your internal and external customers happy is what every IT manager wants to do. Since you are not the only one on your team who has contact with customers, you need to make sure that your team is happy and satisfied so that when they interact with customers they provide good customer service. Happy staff don’t leave, unhappy staff do. Keeping everyone happy and delivering great customer service is just one part of a solid retention strategy.

Finally, it’s really expensive to have staff leave your team. You might think that having someone leave will save you money, but it’s not true. Let’s look at how this is going to end up costing you money.

First, there’s going to be costs that will go along with the process of hiring someone to replace the person who has left. Next there are the indirect costs that have to do with the impact that losing a member of your team will have: more work for everyone else to do, impact on morale, and the potential that it will cause others to leave also. Finally, you need to account for the opportunity costs that having a smaller team will cause. You won’t be able to take on as much work nor will you be able to complete tasks as quickly as you might like to. This will all result in missed revenue and increased costs.

What All Of This Means For You

Forget all of the technical design and implementation tasks that you have to do as an IT manager. You need to understand that getting your team staffed and then keeping it staffed at full strength is a key part of what being an IT manager is all about.

Staff retention can seem like a burden for an overworked IT manager. However, it’s a very important part of the job. Losing a member of your team can result in three types of costs for the company: direct costs of interviewing new candidates, indirect costs of overworked remaining team members, and opportunity costs for missed deadlines and work that can’t be taken on.

There’s an old saying that goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This is relevant to our discussion because if you take the time and make the effort to retain your IT team members, then you’ll be able to accomplish more and will end being a more successful IT manager.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much time each week do you think that you should spend on retention?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Performance appraisals are just about the worst part of an IT manager’s job. You don’t like doing them, your team doesn’t like receiving them. However, as per company policy it’s a required part of the job. Considering how critical they are, you would think that you would have received a great deal of training on how best to do them. I’m going to bet that this isn’t the case…

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