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Employee retention: The next challenge for the IT organization?

by Dave Hannon

December 3, 2010

By Dave Hannon

Your IT organization saw some rough times over the past couple years. You survived that budget slashing. You dealt with the layoffs. You heeded the calls from management asking you to pull another rabbit out of another hat. There were more days than you care to recall when you wondered how it all got done. And finally, things are picking up again. IT spending looks positive next year. You might get some of that budget back for those initiatives you've put off for the past two years.

But will you have your best employees to help you execute them?

Just when you thought it was safe to breathe a sigh of relief, there’s another imposing trend coming down the IT pipeline: employee retention. As markets pick up, so does recruiting and nowhere is that more evident than in the IT sector. Outsourcing and consulting firms that tend to staff up and down based on market trends are going to be ramping up their recruiting efforts and scouring LinkedIn, targeting the best and brightest out there.

And let’s be frank: While there are a lot of IT workers still out of work these days, those most likely aren’t the ones the recruiters are going after. It’s the top performers in your organization.

So if you manage an IT department or organization, there’s no better time than the end of the year to take a step back and review your department’s employee retention efforts and, if you haven’t done it, highlight those efforts to your workers.

Some of the questions you might want to be asking youreslf:

Did your organization go through something during the recession that has workers ready to leave at the first opportunity? Sure everyone made cuts and sacrifices, but how they were executed and received might impact how many exits your see during better times. An article in the Deloitte Review almost a year ago, pointed out that, “Organizations should be careful not to alienate employees during a downturn because of the tangible and intangible costs associated with losing talent once the economy recovers...If you do not take action to prevent a drop in employee job satisfaction and rising turnover intentions, then many of your employees will walk out the door as the economy recovers.”

Does your retention plan cater to workers’ age or generation? What keeps a baby boomer happy is probably not what keeps a millennial motivated, so it’s not a one-size fits all. There’s more research into this topic every day, so read up on it. And don’t be afraid to invite a few millennials for post-work beer to find out what’s really on their priority list. If you’re a boomer or even a Gen Xer, my guess is you might be (pleasantly) surprised.

Have you considered what percent of your department or organization may be retiring in the next five to 10 years? No one likes to talk or even think about age in the workplace. It’s one of the last taboos left. But if you really take a look at the age of your organization and think about how it might look in the not-too-distant future, it might surprise you. For example, if you have a lot of older employees mentoring a lot of very young employees and few in the middle, then you might be setting yourself up for a r ough patch.

If you’re an IT worker and want to chime in, you can reply in this forum where I ask, what sorts of things will keep you in your job?

I’ll be researching and writing more on this topic here on ILN and in Project Expert, so if it’s a topic that interests you, keep your eyes peeled or contact me for more info.

See also: The success of your IT organization depends on...millennials

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