Computerworld reported on a survey done by the Corporate Executive Board that addressed the job satisfaction of about 10,000 IT employees. In 2007 only 12% of the employees said they were “highly engaged.” That number plummeted in 2009 to just 4%. To succeed, companies must change their retention activities now before the recession tide turns.
Some of the most basic needs of quality IT employees include fair compensation, recognition of value and opportunities to do what they enjoy. As companies stop fulfilling these needs, the employees will continue to become restless and will ultimately leave.
The recent recession is a crisis. During real crises, groups tend to come together to support one another and create inter-dependent relationships. If companies can remember and practice this principle with IT, then the business will ultimately succeed.
It is hard to increase salaries during this downturn and IT employees are aware of this. Alternatives might be smaller tokens of appreciation, but even these have some tax consequences. Since changing compensation is not an option for change now consider the next two elements carefully since compensation will become one of the only options for retention later when the recession tide ebbs.
Recognition of value through frequent expressions of gratitude and clearly stated praise is a need of IT employees. The value they provide to the business is accurate, current, and complete information which is what the business absolutely requires to make an informed decision. The business needs to recognize the keepers of its information (spreadsheets, email, laptops, conferencing, phone lines, backups etc). This is true during growth times, but it is critical during down times since an incorrectly informed decision may cause a deeper wound to the business than is necessary.
This crisis is a also an opportunity to strengthen the connection between the business and IT by taking advantage of what IT employees enjoy doing. This is a group of people who traditionally are focused on getting a correct answer as quickly as possible. They thrive on proving their skills to one another (“competitive”) and can be counted on in a bind. Remember that they are the ones with the pagers (“firemen”). They also like to make their jobs easier through automation or cutting out excess activity (“laziness”). During a business crisis there is a unique opportunity to use this “fireman” and “competitive, laziness” as an advantage.
I would recommend taking at least a couple of hours to ponder how the business can give their IT department an opportunity to use these skills. Have you considered allowing IT to collect or audit information? Have you considered making it a “fun” competition within IT to have them come up with ways to save money in the company? Have you considered having your best IT employees quietly observing the daily routines of manufacturing, support, production, sales, accounting or engineering and seeing what they would change to make things running faster? I can guarantee that within a medium-large size business there are numerous things that would improve within all the departments of your business if they were observed by effective IT members.
Businesses must change their IT retention activities now by recognizing ITs value and making IT a closer partner with the business. They can build the partnership bond by allowing IT employees to use their skills to make the business leaner and more agile. Businesses will thus re-engage IT and reduce the attrition of their best employees when the recession tide turns.