IT employee retetnionRetaining employees is always a hot topic but never more so than when talent is scarce. Even if you find a great new hire to replace someone who leaves, there is always time and expense related to training and getting them up to speed. Whether it’s a contractor who leaves before a project’s completion or a permanent employee who jumps to a rival company, retaining your critical IT personnel is important. It’s no wonder that managers are always thinking about how to keep their good employees happy and loyal. I’ve written about this before, and almost felt that perhaps it was too soon to mention it again, but it’s been since last spring that I reminded our readers of some of the things they can do to address the issue of retention.

In case you thought the issue wasn’t still on the front burner, reports that most (76%) CIO’s in a recent survey were planning to hire in the next 3-6 months but, recognizing the difficulty in finding IT talent, were also strongly focused on retaining current employees. Does that sound like you? The TechAmerica Foundation recently reported that IT job growth was slowing over the past few months and suggested it was in part due to the lack of available talent to fill positions, also underscoring the importance of retention efforts. This list from our previous column, IT Employee Retention is More Important Than Hiring, is a quick reminder of some things you can do to help retain your IT employees:

1. Include them in decisions

2. Don’t micromanage

3. Offer flexible work hours

4. Invest in training

5. Provide access to new technologies

6. Give praise and acknowledge contributions

7. Offer free stuff

8. Provide a competitive compensation package

I want to highlight #4 and #5 on the list especially, because I think they are very powerful retention tools and often overlooked as too costly or because of the fear that you’re just training them for their next company. Both of these positions are shortsighted. reinforces the benefits of training and education opportunities in attracting and retaining IT employees in this article. Citing the 2013 Kelly Global Workforce Index (KGWI), they reported that “when asked what their direct manager could do to improve job satisfaction or engagement, the top response (aside from salary, benefits, and promotion) was training opportunities.” Nearly 60% of respondents reported seeking additional education or training in an effort to improve their opportunities at their current workplace, contradicting the idea that better trained employees will leave. Not so.

Bored employees; unnoticed employees, underpaid employees; they will leave. Employees who feel stuck in a rut or that new technologies are passing them by are the ones who will seek opportunity elsewhere. Study after study shows it. Providing your IT employees with opportunities to learn on the job will be a benefit, not a drain, in almost all cases. Sure, there’s always the exception to the rule, but you were going to lose that employee anyway, more than likely; training them wasn’t the main cause. But it could be one of the main reasons why you don’t lose others; the upside potential is much bigger than the downside in this case. Providing opportunity can be as simple as making sure everyone gets a chance to work on cutting edge projects, not just the same people or team all the time, or it can be as formal as providing in house training or reimbursement for training or education undertaken on the employee’s initiative. When you consider the costs of replacing an employee, the costs associated with internal training or tuition reimbursement are generally competitive if not less. Plus, consider that for the money spent you are not just getting a new hire, but retaining a valued employee who is now more skilled, and thus better able to serve your clients and more valuable to your business.

All in all, it makes a compelling case for reviewing your training efforts and education policies to see if you can improve them and in doing so, improve your retention numbers!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International


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