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The IT Talent Gap

IT staff are the ultimate fire-squelchers. Whether it’s IoT security, server support, or everyone’s favorite, user error, they are the people who are always on-call for large and small emergencies.

They’re important people to keep around your organization. Yet, that is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to do. 

There are two forces that hamper efforts to keep valuable IT personnel. For starters, employee loyalty has been on the decline for decades.

The average tenure is 4.6 years, and for workers between the ages of 25 to 34, it is just 3.2 years.

For many, job bouncing is the way to move up in their career: Get experience at one place and then jump ship to another company. 

The second factor is the gig economy.

These are the workers who have left the office space for freelance assignments, work-from-home arrangements, and contract opportunities.

Within the gig economy, workers with specialized skills and technical expertise are the most in-demand. 

Your IT personnel have a lot of options. 

So how do you retain your valuable employees in this new job landscape? Here are 6 ways to help hang on to those you value the most. 

Your IT team should be happy at work

Motivate the Individual Rather than the Team

A good team is one in which every individual does his or her part.

It’s important to frame group projects in a way that ensures each member of the team can take ownership of the job.

While it may be a team project with individual ownership of specific tasks, employees should see how working together offers personal rewards and benefits. 

Schedule Team-building Exercises 

Team-building exercises may seem cliché, but they remain a vital component to a successful department.

They help build comradery and communication, getting employees to work and laugh together. 

The catch is that team-building exercises should be something fun and something conducted outside of the office.

If it’s at work, it can seem like work. Instead, get a sense of what interests the team and take everyone on a group outing. 

Group cooking classes have become popular and the entire team shares the meal afterward.

Do you have the outdoorsy types? How about canoeing or kayaking? Then there is go-cart racing, room escape challenges, painting, and scavenger hunts.

Whatever you choose, you’ll be providing a stress break from the normal workday that can greatly reenergize the team, especially during hectic times. 

Challenge Your Staff to Learn New Skills and Abilities 

IT professionals are explorers, builders, and problem solvers. Many are drawn to the field because they like to solve puzzles.

It’s no surprise to find many lovers of games on staff, whether they’re board games or video games. 

One thing about gamers is that they love incentives, whether it’s earning an achievement or mastering a new challenge.

To keep hold of valuable IT staff, it’s imperative to keep the work challenging and new. No one likes solving the same problem over and over again.

By seeking out new challenges for your employees, you incentivize them to master new skills and abilities. 

If you have an IT employee who is close to maxing out on skills, consider offering them a mentorship role with green staff.

By teaching others to solve problems, that can open entirely new task rewards.

Also, search for tasks outside of an employee’s everyday responsibilities.

By providing opportunities for IT personnel to do creative work beyond their current projects, you will keep them engaged. 

Show Appreciating for the Work Being Done 

Consider this positive feedback. IT can move fast. Often, teams jump right from one project to the next without breathing.

Other than an annual review, the only feedback often comes when something goes wrong.

It is the IT department’s job to fix and set up things, so the only time IT is top of mind is in an emergency. 

It’s important to inform your IT personnel of the good job they do on a regular basis.

If all they hear is the negative, it wears on their psyche and team morale.

A good word here and there can make the difference between a disgruntled employee and one who feels that they’re appreciated and their work matters. 

Provide a Path for Upward Growth 

Make sure the standout employees rise to the topNo employee likes the feeling of being stuck at their current position. The average tenure highlights this point.

4 years seems to be the time-frame where employees are fully settled in. Unlike in the past, this is not a comfortable feeling.

It is a feeling of stagnation. This is when employees feel they’ve hit an unmovable ceiling at their current position and opt to look elsewhere. 

63% of employees say opportunities for growth are key to their job satisfaction.

You can prolong the tenure of your IT staff by providing options for upward growth.

Even if their promotional path is blocked by current staff, an increase in responsibilities or the chance to use their skills and abilities in different ways can do the trick, as long as there is a reward tied to it.

That doesn’t mean the reward has to be monetary. The feeling of being an important part of the organization is often sufficient. 

If an employee has indeed reached as high as they can go in the organization, support them in their finding new challenges.

Happy employees who leave on good terms spread the good word about your company.

In a time of heavy social media use, this often translates to an increased talent pool available to you for hire. 

Build a Relationship Between Your Staff and Senior Management 

When employees have confidence in senior management, they are 9x more likely to be committed to the company.

The easiest way to accomplish this? Build a rapport between your team and senior management. 

The benefits of this relationship go both ways. Senior management gets to know and understand the day-to-day activities of employees.

Employees get to understand the types of decisions senior management face.

Employees also now feel that they have a voice, and that they are actually being listened to.

This breeds a feeling of importance to the company and increases employee satisfaction. 

The Benefits of Happy IT Employees 

By utilizing these tips, you can greatly increase the happiness of your team and reduce turnover.

Not every good employee is going to stay with your company for the long haul.

However, for those who move on to another company, these tips will increase their value to the company while they are under your employ.

Underappreciated employees cost the company more, and by validating your IT staff’s work and showing appreciation for their efforts, you will accomplish more than just a harmonious team.

You will help keep valuable skills in house longer and save on your company’s bottom line.

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Written by IBM BP Network