IT talent retention: Two essentials

IT teams are highly technical and highly human: Pay attention to both elements or risk losing your best talent, says this CTO
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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. Below, Allan Leinwand, CTO of ServiceNow, shares his twofold approach for nurturing employees. ]

In the days of old, IT pros were labeled as back-office folks who maintained the company’s infrastructure (email, servers, laptops, and printers.) While those are still essential functions that must be fulfilled, today’s IT department has come out of the shadows. Through movements like digital transformation, IT is now driving the business, with products and projects that evolve the enterprise. 

Today's top talent challenge is finding people who understand this shift and who are dedicated and motivated to moving the IT department forward. The good thing is, most are.

But in order to not only find but also keep those people, IT must set forth a strong vision, articulate that vision, and move forward to execute that vision every day. 

[ Which IT roles are vanishing? Read our related article, 4 dying IT jobs. ]

How I retain the rising stars in my IT organization

Our coworkers often deal with work that is deeply technical but want to do that work with people who are deeply human.

Rising stars across the organization, not just in IT, are interested in three things: Solving difficult problems, launching solutions into the “real world” and obtaining the permission to do what it takes to do so, and receiving recognition for their work. 

As such, business leaders should allow their employees to work hard on interesting problems that fix business needs. Leaders should also ensure that hard work is not only celebrated but that it has the opportunity to see the light of day. Giving employees the flexibility to make that happen is a requirement. 

The trick to retaining talent is twofold: Understand your team members’ individual needs and get to know each one as an individual.

Each team member has a different way of approaching their work and what motivates them – whether that is through the (welcomed) sink or swim method or providing detailed advice and instruction on how to move forward with a task. Either way, it’s important to be attuned to specific needs to helping each individual grow.

Additionally, it’s imperative to bring a human element to the office. In the tech world, our coworkers often deal with work that is deeply technical but want to do that work with people who are deeply human.

It’s not enough to focus only on what your people need. It’s imperative to get to know them on a personal level and to treat them appropriately – and the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule remains golden for a reason.

Master these two elements, and you'll keep your rising stars on board. 

[ Are you hiring for agile and DevOps teams? Read How to spot a DevOps faker. ] 

Allan Leinwand is chief technology officer at ServiceNow.  In this role, he is responsible for overseeing all technical aspects and guiding the long-term technology strategy for the company.