Enterprises Focus on Retaining Tech Talent

An improving IT job market is forcing businesses to devise retention strategies to keep key IT people.
Just two to three years ago, many IT professionals were happy to have a job. Now, with improvements in the economy, IT hiring is up and IT professionals have leeway to opt for jobs that make them happy.

This market shift, according to Robert Half Technology (RHT), is forcing businesses to devise retention strategies to keep key IT people.

“The economy has shifted quickly. Companies have gone from begging for business to begging for people,” says Justin Rohatinsky, branch manager at RHT’s office in Salt Lake City.

According to RHT, a poll of more than 1,400 CIOs nationwide revealed that 63 percent are providing professional development opportunities to retain their best people. Offering flexible schedules (47 percent) and increasing compensation (41 percent) also are popular retention strategies.

Addressing work-life balance issues and salary issues reportedly is what’s important to new recruits. “Money alone is not solving their problems,” says Rohatinsky. “These people want a career path, they want to grow, learn new skills, have flexible schedules and a corporate culture that promotes a work/life balance.,”

At Tasty Baking Co. in Philadelphia, Autumn Bayles, CIO, says it’s in the company’s best interest to retain its top people. “We do it to keep our employees happy and because the company gets value as well,” she says.

She points out that technology has enabled the company to offer IT professionals greater flexibility. “In the past, if a repair had to be made in the middle of the night, someone would have get up and drive somewhere to fix it. Today, remote-access technology and the Internet enable data-center operations to be done off-site,” says Bayles.

A $250 million company, with more than 100 products under the Tasty Bake brand name, Tasty Baking focuses on offering its IT professionals good salaries, training to encourage employee growth, and varied assignments to keep jobs interesting, according to Bayles. “Employees like growing their skills and we encourage them through training and mixing up work assignments,” she says. Flexibility for balance work/life issues is also important, she adds.

Not long ago, Rohatinsky notes, nine out of 10 conversations he would have with employers were about salary, but not anymore. Today, seven out of 10 conversations with employers are not about salary, but about helping companies learn how they can better themselves to attract employees.

This turning tide in the marketplace occurred in the second half of 2005, he says.

Rohatinsky also reports that the lines of communications are opening up between managers and employees. “Today, managers are asking their employees what will make them happier at work,” he says, openly acknowledging satisfaction with employees and a desire to retain them, he adds.

Awards and contests are another strategy being adopted by companies to make the workplace a more fun place to be. How about a WOW manager, as in world of work? “We just worked with one company to hire a WOW manager whose job is to build employee morale and culture with incentives and contests,” says Rohatinsky.

Encouraging employees to do fun things together, such as games and holding a happy hour, is also important at Tasty Baking. “It helps build loyalty to the team,” she says.

Getting to normal

Barb Rice, director of HR at Orchid Orthopedic Solutions, Holt, Mich., says one of the reasons driving changes in the IT recruitment marketplace is that IT professionals no longer are a breed apart from other employees. “I think that IT employees are becoming more like a typical professional who looks for a stable work environment and are concerned about things like training and advancement,” she says.

Rice contrasts today’s IT work situation with that of the dot.com era of 10 years ago, when IT employees jumped ship left and right, earning an additional $10,000 to $20,000 with each job change.

According to RHT’s Rohatinsky, Rice is probably on the mark. “We’re seeing a lot of employees who are sick of the 18-month job life cycle and pay cuts,” he says, also noting that the lure of IT contracting/consulting is wearing thin.

“Now, we’re seeing a lot of people who are tired of switching jobs, they want permanent positions with benefits and a chance to build equity in a job,” he says

CIO Bayles reports that the IT market is definitely tighter than it was four years ago and that good people are always in demand. Tasty Baking, she says, has had to fill some replacement positions and works hard to retain employees.

“Companies who can’t retain people will spend more time and money on training, hiring and going through that cycle over and over,” says Rohatinsky.

What Rohatinsky reports hearing from job candidates is that savvy employers have strategies to retain valuable employees. RHT reports a nationwide shortage of good IT people. “Today, retention is important and companies should have strategies in place in some shape or form,” Rohatinsky.






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