BearingPoint CIO on Retaining IT Talent

In good times, retaining top IT talent is a top priority for CIOs. Now, in the recession, many IT leaders are scrambling to keep their most valuable staffers from jumping to better opportunities.

Management and technology consulting firm BearingPoint, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, is taking several steps to retain its top IT workers. While some of these tactics involve financial compensation, the key to the effort is creating an environment that makes IT professionals want to stay with the firm.

Even in a tight economy, BearingPoint understands that it needs to offer competitive salaries and benefits to retain employees. Management also tries to reward performance. The firm offers cash awards to acknowledge IT workers who make significant contributions to the business, says CIO Eric Goldfarb.

But retention isn’t just about compensation. “Many of our leadership techniques don’t cost money, and they help build credibility, respect, fairness and pride,” Goldfarb says. “These are key elements to keeping and retaining top IT talent.”

One of the primary ways BearingPoint’s IT organization builds credibility is through monthly IT-wide team conference calls. These meetings are Webcast around the world and archived for those who can’t take part in them live due to time zone or scheduling challenges.

The calls begin with a presentation of IT’s most recent projects, as well as an update on the company overall, Goldfarb says. “Whenever possible, there is recognition for individual team members’ accomplishments,” he says. “People feel that they can easily see the results of their individual and team contributions through these updates.”

That’s followed with a question-and-answer session with IT leaders. “The Q&A is conducted in a way that reflects senior leaders’ belief in an open exchange of ideas: Employees are encouraged to ask the management team members any questions on their minds,” Goldfarb says. “No question is off-limits, and executives speak frankly in addressing issues and concerns.”

Respect and fairness are reinforced through the firm’s efforts to provide the ability to achieve work-life balance and through its expanding training and development programs. Training opportunities include a leadership development program that’s conducted in conjunction with Yale University. Goldfarb says it has been well-received by participants.

“Employees feel that particular attention is paid to grooming the next generation of leaders through mentoring programs, coaching and technical certifications,” he says. “Also, management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment and provides employees unique opportunities to perform cutting-edge work with leading blue-chip clients.”

BearingPoint IT works to build pride through Goldfarb’s regular update letters to the entire work force at the firm about the IT organization’s accomplishments. In the notes, he recounts a variety of successful projects, along with a brief explanation of the business benefits that were achieved through the initiatives.

“These notes let the IT team know how much the firm and I appreciate their hard work, and the letters are clearly well-received by the general employee population,” Goldfarb says. “I typically receive 2,500 responses–out of a work force of 15,000–providing thanks for the updates and, in virtually all cases, words of praise for work done by the IT team.”

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