The IT sector is a hugely competitive marketplace when it comes to talent. For years, demand for workers with the right skills and experience has far outstripped supply, which means there's always fierce competition for the best personnel.
This can cause great headaches, not just for hiring managers, but all IT executives. While actually finding and recruiting the best personnel is a huge challenge in itself, it's only half the job. With so many opportunities out there, the real task is holding on to your key staff for the long term.
Losing good talent is hugely costly. It's not only their skills you see walking out of the door, but also their experience and knowledge of the company, and that's often harder to replace. You might be able to find someone with the same qualifications and understanding of your network or application, but how long will it take to train them in your way of working and get them used to the unique intricacies of your company?
Plus, when it comes to areas like software development, every coder has their own personal style and way of working, and it can be difficult for someone new to come in and pick up from where a previous employee has left off.
Replacing staff takes time and costs money. Therefore, the best way of dealing with this is to ensure your best talent doesn't feel the need to leave in the first place.
The right compensation package
While businesses may offer a wide range of perks and opportunities to workers, ranging from flexible working and gym memberships to supporting professional development, there's no getting away from the fact that the compensation package you offer will always be a major factor in whether your employees are happy to stay, or will be looking for the exit.
This is particularly true in the IT department, where there is constant demand for top talent. Those with specialist skills such as big data analytics or coding for niche programming languages may often find they have their pick of roles and can therefore effectively name their price.
Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for any IT manager is ensuring what they have on offer is competitive. But is simply giving out huge raises every year, a practical way to combat this? Often, the answer is no.
Chris Bolte, CEO of real-time salary, career and job insights provider Paysa, told CIO.com:
"It's not so much about the exact dollar amount, but about your talent feeling that you care about them, you understand their concerns and what’s happening, and you want to do right by them."
So what does this mean for IT executives? It means being open with employees about what you can offer. Pay may be important, but it's not the be-all and end-all. For example, some IT staff may enjoy having the flexibility to devote a certain percentage of their time to passion projects.
Google's famous 80/20 strategy is one example of this, and as this has given rise to some of the company's most popular products and services, it should be clear that encouraging your IT staff to be creative and work on what they love isn't just good for their own morale - it can lead to great things for the company as well.
Understanding the market
Companies also need to be taking a proactive approach to their compensation packages in order to keep up with the market and ensure their IT workforce is engaged and happy in their work.
The first step in this needs to be making sure you understand exactly what the current market for your employees looks like. The IT sector is a fast-moving industry, so you need to know what skills are in demand. For example, there are always new programming languages emerging and technologies developing, and if you're not careful, you'll see employees who have made the effort to keep up poached by your competitors.
You need to ensure there are incentives on offer within your company for those who are keen to improve their professional development. Find out what your staff are interested in, and support their education, whether this is through training schemes of financial rewards.
When implementing any talent retention plan, you should ensure there is clarity and transparency throughout the department, so everyone receives the same information and understands how decisions are being calculated. Doing this can help avoid any potential resentment and makes sure everyone feels they are being appropriately valued and recognized for their hard work.