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Giving IT staffers more responsibility and varied tasks is another winning tactic. Experts say tech professionals want to feel responsible for helping their organization succeed. On top of that, they want to be challenged.
Robert Half's Willmer urges CIOs to put employees in charge of some tasks because employees who feel trusted are more likely to stay at a company. "Trust your staff," he says. "Make sure your employees are empowered to generate ideas and run with them."
Even though things don't always go well with technology initiatives, many IT professionals want to take the responsibility of running a project. Foote says that tactic creates an opening: If you can't pay them as much as they'd like, giving them more ownership of a project or initiative may help keep them on board.
Varying their tasks is also important. "They can't be bored; that's the kiss of death in IT," Foote says. He recommends that managers emphasize the roles IT professionals play and the skills they have--not job titles, organization charts and traditional career paths. Then they should look across the organization and develop opportunities for IT pros to move between roles, giving them the chance to capitalize on their skills.
Foote cites a company that was successful with a program it created in which it evaluated talent and tracked people as they moved among a variety of roles and developed metrics to gauge their performance over a period of time. "Give people different kinds of projects to work on," he says. "They can jump between finance, accounting, sales, across different functional experiences and work on a variety of solutions."
Achievo, a global IT services provider based in San Ramon, Calif., tries to provide a variety of career opportunities and help its IT employees expand their skills, says CIO Bernard Mathaisel.
The company helps employees expand their cultural experiences by giving them the opportunity to work at sites abroad. Achievo also lets IT staffers work at customer locations to better understand their operations. "If an employee has the skill set, we can frequently move them at their request," Mathaisel says.
In addition, Achievo provides ongoing training opportunities for IT workers through programs in specific technologies, process management, project management, transcultural communication, customer relations and various business topics.
Yet another sensible idea to boost retention is to develop a mentoring program. IT people can benefit from having mentors, as well as being mentors. "Show top employees you value them by pairing them with newer staff members as a mentor--an employee who typically has several years of experience and is always available to answer questions or serve as a sounding board for ideas or to offer advice," Robert Half's Willmer says.
More tenured employees benefit from such a program because they impart knowledge to entry-level employees, enhance their communication and training skills, and help build talent within the organization, Willmer says. And those receiving mentoring benefit from learning from the experiences of their colleagues.
Achievo encourages senior employees to act as peer trainers and to participate in lectures and seminars. That provides opportunities, Mathaisel says, "for all Achievo employees to exchange knowledge and enhance communication, and also [offers] a platform for the newly accomplished to showcase their expertise."