Retention, Retention, Retention

by drjim on June 19, 2008

How To Retain IT Staff

How To Retain IT Staff

So you’ve finally built a great IT team / department and now you can’t sleep at night because you are worried that everyone is going to leave. Well guess what, you’re probably right — everyone will eventually leave; however, how fast they leave depends on you. The IT field has a rich history of job hopping and even in today’s lean times, this has not changes. Unfortunately it’s your most valuable employees that will be most likely to hop because they have the talents & experience that your competition is looking for. What’s an IT manager / HR manager / CIO to do?

IT workers are a unique breed. If they like what they are doing, they will stay. One of the first ways to ensure that this happens is to make sure that everyone’s connected with the mission of the business. Note that this is easy to say, but can be very hard to do. The larger the firm, the more disconnected most workers feel. Please keep in mind that the mission of the business can never have anything to do with money (i.e. “Grow profits by 20%”) because unless you work in accounting, you can never get excited about that.

Next is to make sure that IT management is open with the staff about business wins, losses, and hiring plans. When was the last time that you sat down with your staff and talked about where the company is going? For that matter, do you even know where the company is headed? If everyone feels as though they know what is going on, then they will better understand how their job is helping the company get there. Once again, please note that saying that you have an “open door” policy is really just so many words. Your actions will speak much louder than these words.

Promoting from within can be a key tool for getting folks to stick around. If everyone knows what a career path looks like at your company, then they will know where they stand and what their chances of moving up are. If you are constantly hiring from the outside to fill upper management positions, then the team will lose heart and move on.

Finally, be very careful when it comes to team building activities. IT staff are notorious for not wanting to participate in these events and if you are not careful, it could turn into something that looks like a scene from “The Office” TV Show . Instead, creating a challenge that requires a team to work together in order to win a prize or reward that has visibility (big trophy displayed in the office) or has a clear social value (donation to a charity in their names) can make a lasting impression.

One of the things that makes an IT so valuable is its creativity (“innovation” in modern speak). If you use this same creativity to actively work to create an environment in which the IT staff wants to keep working and looks forward to what comes next, then congratulations — you’ve succeeded.

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