By Dave Willmer, Robert Half Technology
Question: I am worried some of the best employees in my department might leave when the hiring environment improves. Is there anything I can do to make sure they are content -- and, hopefully, less inclined to look for opportunities elsewhere?
Now is a good time to turn the spotlight on retention because the market for IT professionals is improving, and your staff may be prime targets for recruitment by competing firms. According to the latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, hiring activity is expected to gain momentum in the third quarter of 2010. In addition, more than one-third of chief information officers surveyed for the report admit they are concerned about losing their top performers in the next year.
As the pace of IT hiring accelerates, your employees may be tempted to explore new opportunities. Some turnover is natural and unavoidable. But to prevent a trickle from becoming a flood, you need to make sure your own actions are not undermining the steps you take to keep your best employees on board. Following are some typical mistakes managers make that hurt their retention efforts:
Not communicating with staff
Senior executives surveyed by our company identified a lack of open, honest communication as most damaging to employee morale. Making decisions that significantly affect your workforce or business operations without asking for employee input or explaining changes can leave staff confused, unhappy and unsure about what lies ahead.
In good times and bad, your workers want a manager who is accessible, visible and honest. Remember, even good news can make employees nervous if key details are lacking. If you can’t provide insight about certain plans, offer as much relevant information as possible. Answer questions and listen to concerns from your team as well. Your staff will feel a greater sense of empowerment and connection to the company when you invite them to share their opinions and ideas. Leaving workers in the dark also limits the amount of buy-in and support you receive on new initiatives.
Failing to recognize employee achievements and offer appropriate rewards
As a manager, you know the importance of praising employees for a job well done; however, you still may not be recognizing your employees as often as you should. Positive reinforcement lets your IT team know they’re on the right track and fuels their motivation.
Never forget to say thank you to an IT staff member who makes a contribution -- large or small. Be specific and timely with your praise, no matter how you bestow it, whether through a handwritten note, in a staff meeting or via an announcement posted on the company’s intranet. Meaningful, sincere thanks will resonate with your team and help keep their enthusiasm running high.
Also, don’t forget about financial rewards. Keep compensation in line with industry standards and provide bonuses when appropriate. While your staff may have understood the necessity of cost cutting during the recession, if the firm fails to compensate deserving employees as conditions improve, they may feel resentment and decide to move on.
Ignoring your team’s development
Limited advancement opportunities was one of the most commonly cited reason why good employees leave, according to the executives our company surveyed. Meanwhile, nearly one-quarter of respondents polled by our firm in a separate survey said their organization reduced professional development programs during the downturn. So it may be time to reinvest in training opportunities to show your IT team that your organization is the right place for them to build a rewarding career.
You should collaborate with each worker to develop an individualized career map that charts their long-term professional objectives at your company and details the steps required to achieve those goals. Discuss how, together, you can translate the employee’s professional interests, preferences and strengths into a long-term career at the organization.
If your IT team knows you will keep them informed, appreciate their efforts and want to help them grow their careers, you will strengthen their loyalty and make them feel less tempted to explore employment opportunities elsewhere. Even if you know you have committed one or more of the common management blunders listed above, it’s not too late to make changes that will help prevent costly turnover and productivity disruptions in your department in the months ahead.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.
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