Strategies for retaining your IT staff

In a tight labor market, companies need to develop strategies to keep their IT departments intact

Aug 11, 2022

Key takeaways

Companies can increase IT retention by revitalizing staff members’ interest in technology

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Effective organizations help IT team members build personal connections 

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Companies that prioritize respect and offer recognition can better retain their staff

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Five ways to help ensure IT staff members stay onboard 

Talented individuals—particularly those who work in information technology—can often pick and choose where they want to work. With the labor market predicted to be tight for the foreseeable future, companies have a strong incentive to hold on to their best performers. Fortunately, organizations can take a number of steps to help ensure their IT departments remain intact.

Here are five key strategies for retaining your IT staff:

1. Keep employees engaged and interested

No surprise—people who work in IT usually like technology. So companies that invest in cutting-edge applications are not just improving their efficiency. They are also making the environment more stimulating for their IT staff. Organizations that give their IT employees a challenging project, a new technology platform or an innovative application are reenergizing their passion for technology.

Nothing shakes off stagnation like a challenging problem to be solved. And because no organization runs perfectly on every level, IT departments often have processes or techniques that can be improved, modified or accelerated. Perhaps the project is to complete a move to the cloud, reduce downtime or enhance cybersecurity. A new challenge can reinvigorate an entire IT department.

Technology has the power to identify issues as well as resolve them, assuming that intrigued IT professionals take the opportunity to show off their skills and propose viable solutions. There is always something new to learn. And motivated employees will often find novel ways to deliver added value to the company as they unlock the potential of new technology.

2. Lead a progressive work environment

Allowing people to languish in their positions is bad, but the opposite—overwhelming them with work—is no better. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in IT departments. Many companies have unreasonable expectations of their IT talent as they work to support antiquated technology. They keep the pressure on until staff members burn out and leave for a more positive culture somewhere else.

In contrast, effective organizations set clear, achievable objectives for people who work in IT. They look for components of their infrastructure that can be automated or outsourced to alleviate the burden on the IT department.

Companies that value their IT staff also consider succession planning and career development opportunities, and they build for the future. On both an individual and a departmental level, the skills of today will not be as relevant 10 years from now. So while it is impossible to predict every future development, wise leaders help people keep up with their education and skill sets to better adapt to the constant evolution of emerging technologies.

3. Build personal connections

People who work in IT spend a lot of time with computers. But that doesn’t make them machines. Like everyone else, IT workers need human interaction, and this can take various forms.

Office happy hours and team lunches can help build camaraderie, and organizational milestones should be celebrated. But there are other ways to build a tightknit team. For example, one company gave seedlings to its tech workers, and the employees bonded over nurturing their plants. Other firms have established book clubs that meet outside work, or have set up nights for everyone to go online and play video games.

Also, keep in mind that environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, factors have never been more important to workers, and IT personnel are no exception. People want to feel like their companies are making a positive impact. Creating opportunities for employees to gather and help their community can make workers feel more connected to their team and their organization.

4. Understand and encourage their career goals

People usually don’t quit jobs only because they are offered more money somewhere else. Yes, pay is always a factor, but a person who resigns just to get a bump in salary is probably also unhappy in that organization. One of the chief reasons people quit is because the organization has not offered them a viable career path.

Many companies have caught on that they need to offer tuition reimbursement, continuing education courses, leadership development and certification training. But while this is a good start, organizations need to be more proactive. Instead of waiting for people to bring up their career goals, it is more effective to approach individuals and simply ask them how they want to progress in their career.

Perhaps IT personnel need more certifications or advanced training, or require hands-on work with different applications. Regardless of the specifics, it is crucial to establish measurable goals. For example, one IT department created a skills passport that allowed workers to earn stamps for certain achievements, which eliminated any confusion about each individual’s progress.

Some IT leaders will argue that there is limited room for growth within their departments. However, in cases where individuals have no obvious way to advance, they could look at leadership roles within the organization, whether in strategy, business analysis or another high-level function. There is no one set path for career advancement.

5. Make them feel valued and appreciated

Respect is a basic, yet powerful, human need. People who feel they are working too hard, and not receiving recognition for it, are far more likely to leave and look for new opportunities. Letting staff members know they are valued and appreciated is a basic step, but one that many companies overlook.

Beyond acknowledging the value and importance of each employee, it is relatively easy to offer perks that resonate with workers. Companies could, for example, pay for employees’ subscriptions to streaming services or offer catered lunches. Any effort the organization makes to let employees know they are valuable is likely to be noticed.

However, making people’s jobs easier can have an even greater impact. Establishing no-meeting Fridays, formalizing remote work procedures, or hiring outsourced providers to offer support and eliminate tedious tasks are just some of the ways that organizations can make IT personnel feel more optimistic about their organizations.

Giving people a voice, so they do not feel like replaceable cogs in a machine, should be the goal of every IT leader. This can be an informal approach, such as establishing a casual open-door policy. Or it can be a formal system that includes an IT advisory group that strategizes with company leadership on crucial matters. In any case, the goal is for people to feel that they are an essential part of the organization, and that their leaders know this.

Summary

Companies can work to retain their IT staff members by revitalizing people’s interest in technology and establishing a progressive working environment. Effective organizations help IT team members build personal connections and identify career goals and development opportunities. Finally, companies that prioritize respect and offer recognition are well positioned to create a dynamic, high-functioning IT department.


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