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8 tips for retaining top IT talent

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | May 2, 2013
How do you retain top IT talent in a competitive market? Is it money? Flexibility? Something else? IT recruiters and executives share their top eight suggestions for how you can keep developers, engineers and IT staff happy.

In a competitive market for highly skilled IT workers, what can organizations do to retain top talent? Is throwing more money at them the solution? What if they are already well compensated?

When 2,600 Linux IT pros were recently asked by the Linux Foundation and technology recruiter Dice what they considered the top three incentives for staying in their current jobs, their answers were: more money (74 percent), better work/life balance (61 percent) and a flexible work schedule or telecommuting (47 percent). Also highly cited, opportunities for professional development, especially if they resulted in advancement. [You can see the full survey results in the 2013 Linux Jobs Report.]

To find out whether it was just money and flexibility that IT workers were looking for, or something else, queried dozens of IT recruiters and executives. Here are their top eight suggestions for how to keep IT talent happy -- and staying put.

1. Include them in decisions. "Good engineers are almost always opinionated," explains Eddie Cole, vice president, Engineering, Scribe Software, a CRM integrator. "They [want] to be listened to [and place a] high value on being allowed to make some calls," he adds. Therefore, to keep them happy, "top talent needs to be provided a platform to contribute towards solutions," says Chandika Mendis, senior vice president, Technology at Virtusa, a global IT services company.

2. Don't micromanage. "Excellent developers know how to create the best solution to a problem," explains Simon Tan, the CTO of Ritani, a high-end jewelry brand. Tell your team the desired result -- or the challenge you need resolved -- and let them come up with the solution, instead of telling them how the problem should be handled. This allows them to "feel like [they are] in charge of their own path forward," he says. And "when developers feel empowered to create the path, their satisfaction increases significantly."

3. Offer flexible work hours. "Offering flexible work hours is a key reason why we [and many other companies] have been able to hire and retain top IT talent in an increasingly competitive market," says Cary DeShon, director of Recruiting, Axis Technical Group, an IT solutions advisor.

"Some of our U.S.-based project managers collaborate with offshore and near-shore teams that require them to work outside a typical nine-to-five schedule.

Other colleagues need flexible hours so that they can effectively balance work and family commitments," DeShon says. "Offering this benefit pays off in having happier, more productive team members."

4. Invest in training. "Provide [IT staff] with the tools and training to stay at the forefront of technological trends," advises Joe Muldowney, recruitment development manager at IT staffing agency Modis. "Employees within the IT industry generally have a passion for technology and look for positions which afford them the best opportunities to learn and gain exposure to the hottest offerings on the market," he says. "A common complaint of unsatisfied IT talent, regardless of skill set or discipline, is that their company does not see the value of investing in IT."


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