Attracting and Retaining IT Pros: An Idea You May Not Have Thought Of

By David Foote  |  Posted 10-02-2006

Not matching your IT workers to true market pay rates is a dumb reason for losing them or not attracting them in the first place. Why? Because it's simple to do and it's effective for most of your workforce, at least for the short term. But it's not enough for your most critical people and jobs, and let's fact it: you need to concentrate your efforts there.

Talented, motivated IT professionals want three additional things: career advancement and new challenges; a great group of people to work with; and a certain amount of work/life balance. Not just in their current jobs, but especially in the jobs and roles they aspire to two to three years or more down the road. Without a reasonable expectation that they can get satisfaction in these areas at your company, they will find an employer who will satisfy all or most of these immutable needs.

So, what should you do?

Offer them a track to run on, even if it means jumping to another career path. They want to be a Solution Architect? Great! Evaluate them against criteria for that job, identify what skills, knowledge and experience they lack and, if they are a viable candidate, invest in the right learning, supervision, work experience, and performance management to make it happen.

It may take a year or two before they're ready, but you've done two things: retained them for this period and sent a message to the workforce (and outside candidates you want to recruit) that you intend to invest in workers who know what they want.

Who pays for all of this you ask?

If you connect everything to business strategy and can draw a clear line of site from the job and/or role to revenue, customer satisfaction, or market share—and many employers are able to do this quite well—any CEO paying attention will jump at the chance to pay for it.

A few caveats:

You need to figure out how to measure their progress and monitor it for anyone who's asking.

You also need to fund this as a program within your company and surround it with support mechanisms, some of which will cost you money and some that will not. For instance, you may need to hire staff to run the program as opposed to doing it in-house with existing managers, who are already busy.

Finally, realize that not every qualifying worker has the same personal needs, and this is where flexibility in work/life policies is important. If you can adapt to workers' idiosyncrasies—and what successful person does not have them—you'll be able to keep these programs in place for years, according to employers who are successfully using this attraction and retention strategy.

David Foote is CEO and Chief Research Officer at Foote Partners LLC (www.footepartners.com), a management consultancy and IT compensation and workforce management research firm based in New Canaan, Conn.