How to retain IT stars: Make sure they feel appreciated

Rising IT stars need to be seen and heard, says Optima CIO Jason James. Here's his advice on highlighting and retaining talent
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[ Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which we ask CIOs and IT leaders about their toughest talent challenges – and their best retention tips. ]

Like most organizations, we’re dealing with rapid advancements in technology. That means we must take a focused approach to employee training to ensure our teams not only have the skills to do their job today, but also are prepared for emerging technologies. There is little point in investing in next-generation technologies if you’re not willing to invest in empowering and educating your teams to stay current so they can operate at peak productivity and help drive innovation across the organization.

How I retain the rising stars in my IT organization

Stars can only be seen when they shine. All rising IT stars should have a voice. Often during departmental or company-wide meetings, I’ll give a rising star the chance to talk about a project they are working on — share key findings and listen to recommendations. It’s not only an opportunity for them to hone their leadership skills, it’s recognition of their talent.

Also, give them a chance to work on meaningful projects that will impact the entire organization. IT talent will stay in roles longer if the project challenges them and provides learning opportunities. If you can get them attached to career-building projects, you’re more likely to retain them longer.

Bonus tip: Show gratitude

Start by being genuinely grateful. No CIO does his/her job in a vacuum. It takes a team of dedicated technologists to deliver on the strategy and vision of the CIO.

At Optima, we have a formal employee recognition program, where managers can applaud employee efforts, contributions, and accomplishments via a web-based social platform that shares that recognition with the entire organization. That recognition is also associated with rewards and other bonuses for the employee.

While it’s important to thank individuals one-on-one, be sure to take advantage of opportunities to highlight individual or team success in a public setting. Genuine appreciation goes a long way toward retaining talent.

[ Want to give your team a sense of urgency? Get our new resource: Fast Start Guide: Creating a sense of urgency, with John Kotter. ]

Jason James is CIO of Net Health. He has led IT operations for fast-growth technology companies for over twenty years.

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