May 5, 2008

Ways to keep your productive IT staff from moving out

I must admit that I am not spared from losing precious and productive IT staff within my department. The reasons are very diverse and almost endless and I’d say I’ve heard almost every excuse anyone can imagine. I for one had made the same excuses during my early years as professional programmer and I know keeping me from leaving will take more than just a raise.

With more IT businesses opening up very year, the competition for IT talents gets even more rigid. With promises of better pays, more bonuses, and travel incentives; what other creative ways to keep them from leaving you for another company? You’d be surprised that many of the answers listed below require more common sense than creativity.

I have made a short list of advice that I think will work for your business:

  1. Be clear with your department’s objectives.

This is the most important and often overlooked practice. We tend to immediately train the new staff on processes and policies and not making clear to him immediately the IT department’s goals and objectives. Why is this important you say? Your department’s objectives give the new staff an idea on how he should be working in unison with other colleagues in meeting its objectives. This also portrays an image that the department has a clear understanding of what it wants to do and ways to achieve them. If the staff you’re hiring is in it for the long run and yet you’re not being clear on your objectives, I bet he’ll be hitting the street looking for a new job in no time.

  1. Stick with the job description.

Another turn-off to many IT staff is their being too ‘spread-out’ on a lot of tasks that aren’t in their job description. Like having the programmer fix someone else’s computer or make your daily morning coffee. It takes away the professionalism in their jobs if you keep on doing this on a regular basis. If it ain’t in their JDs better hire someone who can or, you can do it yourself.

  1. Have fun.

Your IT staffs are and will always be eternal geeks! Having fun is their only avenue to creative thinking - especially when they are under pressure on meeting deadlines. This also promotes healthy camaraderie among colleagues. Yes, you can be a mortician and still have fun!

  1. Nurture creativity and uniqueness

Every individual is unique and everyone has its own way of solving problems. Your department should be promoting creative thinking and trusting them to deliver their jobs well. IT staff always loves new challenges and solving them. Allocate a few hours a week for open-for-all ‘brainstorming’ sessions; introduce an idea and you will see light bulbs flash in an instant. If you do this, you will be surprised on what they could think and come up next. It may be the next killer app!

  1. Give ‘milestone’ incentives.

This can be a motivating factor especially for programmers developing on projects that would run for more than 6 months. It can be very boring when they just continue on working on huge projects until they finish it. It’s just like being in a long drive without taking a stop. Incentives may be in the form of cash, movie tickets, pizza break or whatever small ways your IT team really digs.

  1. Provide new learning opportunities.

Another very important and certainly not to be ignored is your IT staff’s opportunity for learning new things. This can get them really excited and can’t wait ‘till they get their hands dirty on new stuffs. This may be in the form of trainings, seminars or conferences that they can use within your company.

  1. Ample supply of tooling resources.

What spurs creativity is always the limitation of resources but limiting too much can always means disaster. It’s always smart to invest on basic development tools that they would use regularly such as: Diagramming tools, DB Administration Tools ( if your staff is a database administrator) or a handy IDE for your programmers. I think this is the area where IT department should never scrimp on.

  1. Be kind.

Yes, and that means treat them as your equals and not just someone who works from paycheck to paycheck. Let’s face it, you need them as much as they need you and your success depends entirely on how you handle your people first before they can handle your customers genuinely. I have had the experience at shouting at my staff once or twice but it didn’t result to anything productive. They always ended up resigning or just merely disappearing.

I have learned this hard way and since then, I changed my tactics on managing people. Here are some things that you should never do: 1) humiliate your employees in front of others 2) shout at them 3) be respectful at all times and 4) keep your cool.

  1. Put bonds.

As a last guarantee so your employees wouldn’t just leave you outright is to put a bond on them. A bond is an investment you made for training and grooming them to be a productive IT staff. Make them sign a contract stating clearly that there is always cost involved in having them and that whenever they decide to resign within a minimum period say 1 year, they will be liable to pay back all the investments you made for that person. If the new hire refuses to sign on the contract, this simple means that he doesn’t plan stay long and would save you all the trouble for looking a new replacement.

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