IT employeesAs we have talked about many times on this blog, finding and retaining IT talent has been, and for the foreseeable future will be, one of the most pressing business challenges for employers. The challenge has become so great that offering perks such as free gourmet lunches, five figure referral bonuses, and time to work on pet projects have become common place. So it is only natural that Computerworld would rank the top IT places to work.

The rankings are broken down into three categories: large, midsize, and small. You can read the article and see the rankings here.

Each winning company has their unique approach that placed them in the #1 spot. But there are some common threads that run between each of them.

1. Encourage Learning
The world of technology changes rapidly. So encouraging IT workers to take classes and earn certifications benefits the employee and the company. It’s almost imperative for companies competing for the best IT labor to invest in their workforce through tuition and certification reimbursement. Whether it is an annual stipend to spend on education (e.g., $4-5,000 per employee), ongoing internal training, or short, targeted classes (e.g., a week long class on new VMWare Technology), this is an investment that is both good for business and for employee morale.

2. Food (and other perks)
Free food used to be considered a luxury and only offered by billion dollar high tech companies. But other companies soon learned that it’s a cost effective way to keep your IT workforce happy and productive. Consider the following:

  • It shows the company cares. Sure, IT workers are often paid well but they also provide the foundation and products that make billions for their companies. Using some of that money to provide a free meal goes a long way.
  • Free meals often facilitate greater communication among employees resulting in networking, idea exchanges, and increased camaraderie. All of these things result in a better, more productive workplace.
  • Employees that don’t need to plan for meals, prep for meals, shop, and do dishes often spend more time at work or have better quality time off.
  • Free meals translate into approximately $5,000 of tax free income for the employee. Something every employee calculates and appreciates at some point.

Free food is just one example of the kinds of perks (e.g., onsite fitness centers, hyper break rooms, free dry cleaning, parties, etc.) that started out as cutting edge and are now almost common, at least in some form. This is one area where smaller companies can compete with the biggies – the fewer employees you have the less it will cost to feed them all!

3. Advancement
Every IT employee has career aspirations. And the majority of the time those career aspirations coincide with company goals. Companies that are successful at attracting and retaining IT workers have formal programs for tapping into each IT workers career aspirations and building a path for him/her to attain them. It’s more than just training and opportunity though; many of the most successful companies provide mentors or involvement from leadership in developing their employees. This makes IT workers happy and the company ends up with motivated, successful employees.

4. Company Culture
Mentioned again and again as a key component for the top ranked companies is a strong set of core values, a clear mission statement, committed leadership – from the top down – and transparent, honest and frequent communication. Computerworld’s top ranked companies all shared this quality. Their employees consistently talked about the difference it makes when the CEO reaches out to personally praise work that a team or individual has done, takes an interest in their career aspirations, has an open door communication policy, or sends flowers to an ailing family member. They also cited strong company values as important to weathering difficult times – an economic downturn or difficult projects.

None of these things is going to replace salary as one of the most important reasons that people work, and these companies all acknowledge that they pay competitive if not generous salaries to their employees. But if you read the profiles of each winning company, regardless of size, you’ll see these four common areas of focus and action. Computerworld’s survey and rankings underscore that it takes more than just money to be a great place to work.

Wendy Sun
VP of Recruiting
ATR International, Inc.

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