Information technology workers want to be challenged, connected and appreciated.
Failing to fulfill any of these needs could cause you to lose talented IT professionals to other companies.
Already negligible, the unemployment rate among tech workers could essentially vanish altogether in the the near future. The U.S. Department of Labor projects the country’s universities will only be able to produce qualified candidates for 29 percent of the 1.4 million specialized jobs that the proliferation of cloud computing technologies and services will spawn by 2020, according to Fortune magazine.
With new talent scarce, companies must retain IT workers at near any cost. That need not mean burying them in piles of cash, however. The strong job market has imbued well-compensated tech professionals with such confidence that they increasingly yearn for—and seek—cultures that yield personal and professional fulfillment.
Though IT professionals continue to cite base pay as the most important factor in job satisfaction, the percentage doing so dropped to 49 percent in 2014 from 73 percent in 2012, according to Computerworld‘s annual salary survey. The magazine reported that:
“In the same time period, job atmosphere and community, being valued for one’s opinion and knowledge, and other ‘soft’ factors are up 7 or more percentage points, suggesting that IT staffers are placing more importance on intangibles such as corporate culture, challenging work and recognition — a trend that employers ignore at their peril.”
Retaining tech talent assumes additional urgency when you consider that tech personnel are increasingly involved in crafting strategies and implementing tactics for whole organizations. Include the following ingredients when creating an IT department culture.
When asked, “What matters most to you about your job?”, 34 percent of the 3,673 IT professionals who participated in Computerworld‘s 2014 annual salary survey responded: “Challenge of job/responsibility.” Allowed to pick as many as five factors, that was the fourth most popular response, behind only base pay, job stability and benefits.
Recognizing her IT department’s need to better support the business, Intel Chief Information Officer Kim Stevenson challenged her team “to move beyond ‘what you know’ to ‘what’s possible,’” within 100 days of taking office, she said in an interview for Forbes. In advocating risk taking and possibility thinking, she went so far as to create “Take a Chance” cards so that employees knew that they had her “support for taking big risks.”
“Chief Designer” is one of a CIO’s most important roles, former Fortune 250 CIO Frank Wander wrote in a blog post for The IT Excellence Institute, of which he is the founder and CEO. Wander wrote:
“So, it is the social environment that drives mood, sentiment, desire, and if designed right, unlocks innovation. Therefore, innovation is an outcome – a byproduct of the culture you build.”
Wander’s suggestions for developing an innovative culture include:
- Fostering an upbeat, positive environment;
- Providing “think time”;
- Mixing tech employees with differing thinking styles and points of view;
- Encouraging openness;
- Banishing blame.
Demands to contribute more to the organization can be draining for tech workers. In its 2014 annual salary survey of IT professionals, Computerworld found:
- 84 percent have felt pressure to increase productivity, take on new tasks, or both.
- 68 percent expect their workload and responsibilities to increase over the next 12 months.
- 55 percent communicate “frequently” or “very frequently” with the office after hours.
With such pressure to perform, tech employees crave opportunities to relax. Workout rooms, game lounges, tranquil gardens or even yoga studios can help tech employees remain productive by helping them unwind.
Similarly, if they’re going to work long hours, IT professionals would prefer to determine when and where they do. Telecommuting and flexible work schedules can mitigate the need to be available 24/7.
According to research compiled by TalentPuzzle, a recruitment agency recommendation site:
- Job listings offering telecommuting get 3x to 6x more applicants.
- 81 percent of top employees work for companies that offer flexible schedules, according to a Harvard Business Review survey.
- 33 percent of IT workers would take a 10 percent pay cut to work remotely.
Tech workers can maintain a better work-life balance, and thus feel more satisfied, when they know that they can get away for time with family or friends when needed.
Agile work processes like standup meetings in the morning progress updates during the day are key in keeping IT staff collaborating to meet deadlines. So too, are environments conducive to collaboration, like lounges with comfortable chairs and couches or huddle rooms with tables and TVs.
Tech workers are continuous learners. Support their growth and development by paying for them to attend seminars or attain certifications for specific technologies. Online training opportunities are also appreciated.
Highly intellectual, IT personnel have grown accustomed to being rewarded for achievements since childhood. Given that top talents have likely accumulated numerous accolades and rewards for their intellectual prowess, they expect no less at work.
Recognize exceptional efforts and results through formal and informal employee performance programs. Rewards don’t have to be expensive, just genuine. Lavishing tech workers with well-earned praise can mean as much to them—if not more—than bonuses or other monetary incentives.
Research has shown that employees are highly engaged when they feel as if they are making a difference. Give your IT team a mission worth backing. It doesn’t have to be ending world hunger or curing cancer, but it should be something in which their efforts have a demonstrable impact. Explain why their work matters and they will be more likely to stick around to see the results.
More than half of the 1,369 IT managers surveyed by Computerworld responded that it had taken them three months or more to fill an open position within the last two years. That is time and productivity that most companies cannot afford to lose.
A strong IT department culture will help you retain top talent longer, thereby minimizing the costly and time consuming recruiting process. Now that you know the ingredients, start creating that culture.
About the Author
Lee is Director of Business Development at Providence Technology Solutions. He has a strong background in the staffing industry, and has focused his efforts in healthcare IT & information technology.
Lee has held roles in executive management, business development, and sales operations throughout his career. He is a forward-thinking business executive with stellar record of success in leading business development initiatives and executing plans to explode sales and profitability. He is a respected, visionary leader; a recognized “business builder” who has built successful teams in companies throughout his career.
About Providence Technology Solutions
An affiliate of The HCI Group, a global leader in healthcare IT that provides cost-effective solutions for healthcare IT implementations and ongoing support, Providence Technology Solutions evolved to develop strategic partnerships outside of healthcare.
Providence Technology Solutions provides staff augmentation and contract resources for customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human capital management (HCM) implementations and training.
A cross-industry presence allows clients in numerous industries to benefit from best practices applied through the consulting and implementation services offered by Providence Technology Solutions, which it has honed through extensive experience providing high-quality IT solutions. For more information on Providence Technology Solutions, go to www.providencetechnologysolutions.com, or call 904-512-6451. Lee Shipman can be reached at Lee.Shipman@providencetechnologysolutions.com or 904-512-6448.