Retaining IT professionals
It’s the age of information technology (IT). Computers are more powerful. The Internet makes communication global. In the business world, computing technologies have helped to maintain both the pace and global reach of today’s businesses.
Given its importance, the race is on for employers to recruit and retain its best and brightest. This study looks into industry practices on retention in order to develop possible retention strategies for IT companies. With Ateneo Center Organization Research and Development, a study was conducted among 124 IT professionals to explore the factors behind high employee turnover and to investigate the factors behind what makes employees stay in their company.
Not just the money
The study revealed that that pay and benefits influence both organizational commitment and turnover intent. However, while low pay is a reason to leave, it’s not necessarily the only reason they stay. Rather, the kind of work, talent development, advancement in career opportunities and a great work environment are also strong predictors of organizational commitment. This means that companies that want to keep their IT professionals should focus on providing them competitive pay, opportunities to upgrade their skills, facilitate their career development, provide interesting work , and cultivate good relationships among workers.
Keeping best and brightest
Since careers in the IT field are one of the most lucrative these days, companies can encourage organizational commitment (and discourage thoughts of leaving) using the following retention strategies:
1. Provide opportunities for career growth. Professionals want to use their skills in work that is interesting to them. Assign IT workers interesting and challenging projects. Identify and communicate opportunities for their growth.
2. Make your company a great workplace. Encourage friendly and cooperative work groups. Working in teams is a characteristic of today’s knowledge worker. No advance technologies can make up for being in a team that is not able to work and communicate well.
3. Invest in skills upgrade, however small. Technology workers, in particular, value ongoing educational opportunities that will enable them to keep their skills current and continue learning on the job. It is thus important to provide opportunities for continuous training on soft and technical skills, and even providing formal educational opportunities. On-job-training and coaching are also other ways to hone employee skills.
4. Offer competitive pay and benefits. Employees know and compare with other IT professionals their pay and benefits. It is recommended that market based pay should be studied annually and factor this in the company wage structure. Other creative ways such as a “pay for performance” scheme, profit-sharing or flexible benefits may also be considered to enhance compensation and benefits program. Non-monetary benefits (such as flexible work schedules) are also another attractive benefit.
5. Link pay with skills and outputs. Another retention strategy would be to adopt competency-based pay. Companies can also opt to develop some kind of royalty or profit-sharing scheme where employees are encouraged to create new products to market, and a portion of the income generated from the product they created can be given to the employee.
6. Leadership is key. Motivation, job design and development and culture building are all fundamental tasks of leaders. Although setting up effective HR systems is important, supervisors would be in the best position to know what kinds of rewards, growth, tasks and environment their subordinates need. Hence it is important that IT organizations spend time in building up their leadership capabilities. Good leaders can become good role models, and can help develop IT professionals through open communication, mentoring and guidance in technical expertise.
Mitchell, Holtom and Lee (2001) say that there is no magic pill for a company’s retention problems. Retention cannot be accomplished purely through money. A host of on-the-job and off-the-job factors must be considered when developing a retention plan. Such an approach entails improving pay and benefits structures, career or talent development systems, job or work enrichment, and enriching leadership and work culture.
(The author is a training officer in a multinational bank and formerly the Associate Director for Organization Development at the Center for Organization Research and Development (CORD), Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University. For feedback e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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