How to keep your IT staff ?

Some time ago I came across very nice article about “why IT people change their work”. Mostly I agreed with everything I read there, but there are few things I would like to add.

Today, more then ever, trying to retain employees in the IT became very difficult task. I hope decision-makers will read this article and draw some conclusions.

Here is my list of most important things IT guys expect from their companies. Give them that and they will stay in your company longer. Close your eye on some of them and say goodbye to your IT engineers…

1. Money – at the end of the day, we all work for money. Engineers are geeks, but they also have families they need to support. When I say money, I mean competitive salary + bonus. Bonus stimulates people to work hard and it gives them a feeling that a company appreciates their hard work. If they are doing a good job they are enabling your company to make money, so share the wealth.

2. 40 hour work weeks – there are always times when you will need to have staff available beyond the normal 40 hour work week but if it is consistent, you have a project management problem and possibly an employee morale problem. IT comes with enough stress by default. If stress level is high and longer then 40 hours per week, even biggest workaholics will crack.

3. Flexible work schedules – there is no need for IT people to be in the office all the time. With broadband access available almost anywhere, there is no reason not to give some “work from home” time (as long as their performance warrants it).

4. Overtime – make sure you compensate this either with money or time off. Worst thing is to do neither! If you ignore the fact that your employees burn themselves out, you are working against your company on a long term.

5. Listen to your employees – if an employee gives a relevant input on a project and he is being ignored, then you might as well be telling them that they suck! Speak with your employees about everything and be transparent! Employees want to know what is happening in the company whether it is good or bad. Guessing is the worst thing. If you don’t speak with your employees they will start guessing. Employees might guess you are about to fire them, or sell a company, or something third, and will leave. Nobody wants to stay on a sinking ship, if they guess the ship is sinking. So, give them real input and be honest. IT guys are also humans, they appreciate a little honesty.

6. Perform annual reviews on time – this means on or before their anniversary date. Nothing makes an employee feel devalued more than wondering what management thinks of their performance (and not getting a raise).

7. Use modern IT processes – this doesn’t necessarily mean an agile methodology but a process for IT projects that doesn’t suck the life out of people by putting too much red tape in place. Try to make a progress in your organization by staying on-the-edge with development tools and methodologies.

8. Provide company sponsored “outside” activities – employees love to be given time outside of work with the team to blow off steam. This can be as simple as playing tennis or bowling or just a visit to a beer garden.

9. Good hardware – don’t be cheap! Give your employees the latest and greatest when it comes to computer hardware. It makes the work more enjoyable to be using latest machines and it just might make them a bit more productive.

10. Cross training – don’t create silos in your work environment. Nothing will demotivate employees more than doing the same thing every single day. Let people move around a bit in the projects. If you have your project management done correctly, this should be pretty easy to do. This also is a huge advantage to your organization if you start to have turn-over. Spend some money on external training for your employees – conferences and courses. Give some budget to every employee and let him decide on which external training to spend it.

These 10 points listed cost some money. But it is nothing compared to the damage you have when your highly skilled employee with lots of internal know-how leaves the company.

The bottom line here is that if you don’t show, with action, that you value your employees they are going to become unhappy at some point and leave (even the good ones). Your employees keep your business running so if they are not happy you have nothing to make your customers happy as well.

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