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8 Tips to Increase IT Worker Retention

Hiring the best IT professionals on your team is only part of your job as an IT manager. Keeping your star employees can prove to be an even more difficult task.

By Rich Hein
September 27, 2012

Employee turnover is a costly affair for employers. The time spent looking for, hiring and training new employees can add up quickly. Naturally, you want to protect your investment. What can you do to increase your company’s employee retention?

“What’s most important in both enticing and retaining employees is company culture, says Matt Chasen, CEO of uShip, an Austin, Texas-based company that provides freight, household goods and vehicle shipping services , “It starts with the interviewing process– it’s critical that candidates come to our office.”

Once there, the goal is to get them to meet as many people as possible so they can get a feeling for what it’s like to work at uShip and for employers to see how and if the candidates fit into your company’s culture, Chasen says. “What we’ve done well [at uShip] is create a great culture. That is what I have found to be the most effective in retaining and attracting talent.”

And with stats such as a 1.5 percent turnover rate, in contrast to Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) which has the rate at 3 percent for the same time in July, it’s hard to argue with uShip’s results.

So what does it take to build a great culture that will retain your current employees and help attract new ones? Here are the eight things you can do to prevent your employees from jumping ship.

1. Express Clear Expectations

This may seem like a no-brainer and yet you probably, at some point in your career, had a boss who you wished was clearer when doling out tasks, responsibilities and projects. Today’s IT employees are inundated with tasks and responsibilities. If you aren’t making it clear what their job actually is how can you evaluate their performance? Clear expectations make everyone’s life easier.

2. Foster Open Lines of Communication
At uShip each week, Chasen says, teams meet and all topics of discussion are open. From the newest to the most senior person, everyone is encouraged to share his or her ideas with the group. Having an open door policy with your employees can also help foster communication. However you do it, getting your workers communicating more will have a positive effect on morale and help get all your employees on the same page.

3. Help Your Employees Grow
This can take many forms including on-the-job training or tuition reimbursement. Chasen says, “You lose the superstars if there isn’t a path to advancement.” Have a clear path for career growth and do what you can to help your employees educate themselves and reach their goals. This coincides with the next item.

4. Promote From Within Your Company
When people see how someone takes on more and more responsibility and credibility, and moves quickly through that progression, it sends strong signals to other employees how to do it.

If an employee feels like he is in a dead-end job and there is no room for advancement, he is far more likely to seek new employment. Clarity on the path to advancement can offer piece of mind and help stave off the idea of finding another job.

At uShip, Chasen says, “we have great mentoring and education. When people see how someone takes on more and more responsibility and credibility, and moves quickly through that progression, it shows strong signals to other employees how to do it,” and that can be morale boosting.

5. Offer Monetary Awards
What shows appreciation better than cash? Providing more than the cost of living raises each year is a solid way to foster loyalty. Another technique is giving stock options or other financial awards to employees who meet or exceed expectations. Bottom line: reward your top personnel accordingly based on merit versus across-the-board increases.

6. Offer Perks
uShip employs a full-time chef who makes lunch every day and breakfast on Fridays. According to Chasen, “When employees leave for lunch they are disconnected.” Preparing in-house lunches, “encourages employees to eat together and bond.” This may be more than you want to do, but it illustrates the point. Chasen also says that the money for the chef and other perks at uShip still wind up costing them less than the cost of finding and bringing someone new up to speed. Little things that don’t necessarily mean a lot to you can go a long way in keeping your employees excited to come to work.

7. Know Your Employees
Most companies perform an exit interview when an employee leaves, but these don’t normally yield enough or the right type of information needed to retain workers. A better question to ask is, why do employee’s stay?

In a recent Forbes article, Susan Torroella, president and CEO of Columbia Medcom says, “Stay interviews require trust and so may be a more effective tool for small companies.” Knowing what the deal-breaking issues are with your employees is a great way to know what you need to do to keep them happy.

8. Provide Good Benefits
Health benefits are a crucial part of an employee’s compensation. These most often include medical, dental and optical benefits, 401k and life insurance. Other benefits can include allowing employees to work remotely, flexible schedules and child-care. Provide good benefits to your employees and they may think twice before looking elsewhere for work.

Create a Positive Company Culture

When we emerge from the economic recession and more IT jobs become available, employers need to be in tune with their employees needs and wants or they risk suffering a brain drain, where retention percentages dive seemingly overnight.

In these competitive times more money isn’t always the answer. “You’ve got to offer more than salary to entice and retain people,” says Chasen. Creating a positive culture and having a clear mission statement are a great start but in competitive times you have to ask yourself what more you can do to attract the top talent?

As always we’d love your feedback. What does your company do to help retain its employees?

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