How To Keep IT Talent Once You've Got It

Finding and hiring the tech specialists to help you enable your 2.0-strategies is only half the challenge. Retaining them once you've brought them on is the next.

We've discussed the challenges leadership is facing in the search for IT talent and some ideas on how to adjust current recruitment strategies in a previous post. Assuming a mixture of those ideas and your own terrific tactics have worked, and now you've gotten your organization staffed up with all the techno-wunderkinds needed to keep your digital growth and transformation game plan moving forward, the next task is getting these specialized tech professionals to stick around long enough to actually accomplish these goals and provide real value to the company.

On the plus side, they may want to stick around naturally, as members of the technology profession tend to show a stronger commitment to their jobs than many of the other roles within the business, says Herb Gosewish, a partner at U.S. Alliance Partners, "They have more loyalty to their career and personal development than the company that employs them,” he says. “IT workers tend to stay longer and find more satisfaction when they feel they can ‘own’ their work and it’s something they influence from a creative point of view.” This is potentially good news for the outcome forecast of your 2.0 projects, so long as there are good processes in place to lubricate work efforts and your new recruits feel as though they have some level of creative or design input in the initiative. 

On the bad side, the competition is hot right now for top tech talent. With the current boom in technology and seemingly every company pushing some sort of digital transformation agenda, the pickings are slim for specialized technology workers of all backgrounds. Since we're having this conversation though, you've apparently found and hired IT personnel you need; now the challenge becomes keeping them onboard and engaged, not only so you can continue leveraging their talents and keep technology projects moving forward, but also so you can avoid the pain, cost and delay of going back out to fish in the "sea of IT" for replacements.

Keeping your new IT talent's interest aligned with the business is key, and now that you have them, it's going to take more than money to keep them. Fending them off from the likes of poachers offering greener grass, or simply loosing them due to their lack of satisfaction with your organization, takes effort on your part. So here are some proactive tips that may help you retain the tech specialists you've worked so hard to get:      


#1: Win/Win — Due to the complex nature of technology, professionals working inside the field are more apt to develop specialization in certain areas. Nurturing these abilities and expanding their knowledge-base in these areas is crucial for their own professional development. By ensuring the role you've cast them in is closely matched to their area of knowledge, you increase their motivation to stay and develop with you. Helping them continue their education by establishing pathways for training and conference attendance, improves both them and the organization.   

#2: Start Strong — Retention efforts should begin during onboarding. “All the recent studies suggest that new employees determine within the first few months of employment whether or not they made a good decision,” says Gosewisch. Engaging new employees in the company culture and business infrastructure from day one will improve employees’ experiences and prospects for staying.

#3: Reduce Burnout — In today’s fast-paced IT work environments, stress levels and burnout can run high and lead to employee turnover. We've written about strategies to reduce this stress, including establishing a strategic delegation partnership, but it begins with performing a regular assessment of member workloads, ensuring equitable delineation of duties and always being considerate of work-life balance. Asking your technology employees for their input on lowering stress and lightening workloads is a great way for proactive feedback and allows for ownership of potential solutions as well.

#4: Motivation Checks — Regularly assessing your employees’ motivation for their work gives you valuable insight into their level of engagement and allows you to make strategic adjustments. Motivation checks also serve as an early warning system. “Regular assessment gives you the opportunity to identify the people who are thinking about leaving or who are somehow dissatisfied with the work or the environment,” says Gosewisch. He adds that getting regular feedback from employees often uncovers small management issues that can be corrected before they become big problems.

In today's job market technology specialists have the upperhand. Finding them is just half of the battle. Providing them confidence that you're the best place to use their talents is crucial in advancing your company's IT agenda. Ensuring this should start with a careful and complete review of employee retention practices, benefits and onboarding processes, with a focus on what the company offers versus what employees and prospective tech candidates actually want.