3 creative ways to retain IT talent

To attract and retain top IT talent today, you need to be creative. Check out this expert advice to boost your organization’s culture and motivate your team members
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The single most important factor in building a successful tech company is talent. Whether your goal is to design a top-notch product or provide winning services that outshine the competition, your organization will struggle to grow and differentiate itself in the market without top-notch employees.

And simply attracting talent isn’t enough. You must be able to retain it as well – not an easy task over the last few years. The ongoing talent shortage has impacted companies across every industry, and many tech leaders are struggling to retain IT talent. This challenge has been exacerbated by an uncertain economy, the war in Ukraine, and other factors.

How are tech leaders dealing with this? In a recent study by JetRockets, 60 percent of CIOs and CTOs say they are increasing salaries and benefits, and 56 percent are enabling greater work flexibility. These are important first steps, but they are probably not enough to retain your most skilled employees.

[ Also read 4 steps to supercharge IT leaders. ]

To retain your IT talent in 2023 and beyond, you need to think outside the box. Here are three ways you can retain top talent and mitigate external recruitment.

1. Engage employees with individual growth

Investing in your employees isn’t only good for your staff; in many ways, it can improve your company. Examples include offering to further employees’ education, paying for and/or hosting workshops that teach new skills, and actively encouraging employees to advance their own development and careers.

It's also a good idea to help employees gain a better understanding of the roles they want to grow into. For example, an IT worker looking to enter a managerial role requires different training than an IT worker who wants to become more hands-on with software development.

This involves more than simply sitting your employees down individually and asking them what they want to do. To engage employees and encourage them to take initiative in their growth, ask for feedback about your company’s vision, growth, and direction. Doing this makes employees feel that they play an important role in your company’s growth and helps you recognize their strengths so you can create opportunities that benefit the company.

2. Prioritize company culture and open dialogue

Company culture can be a difficult concept to pin down, let alone execute. This is mainly because there are no traditional or uniform ways of measuring company culture. However, it is possible to correlate a connection between company culture and employee turnover.

A high employee turnover rate can be a sign of poor company culture, and as a tech leader, it’s your responsibility to foster a strong culture and reinforce company values. To do this, focus on building an environment that encourages open dialogue so employees feel comfortable discussing anything from how operations are run to the projects they’re working on.

For example, my organization established a Project Management Office (PMO) practice as well as knowledge-sharing sessions that help eliminate knowledge gaps or bottlenecks. We also promote feedback from employees throughout the entire company.

Some examples of implementing open dialogue include:

  • Encouraging transparency across all levels
  • Conducting periodical one-on-one sessions with employees
  • Establishing a voting mechanism for company changes

Open dialogue is a fundamental component of company culture, and no organization can afford to let culture become a backseat priority. Additionally, meaningful discussions allow employees to voice complaints and enable leaders to readjust policies to prevent turnover.

If your revolving door of employees is turning on a weekly or even a monthly basis, it’s possible that your organization does not have a stable culture. In this case, it’s especially important to establish and maintain an open dialogue with your employees.

3. Encourage client connection

Burnout has become all too common, especially in IT roles. Many leaders report feeling burnt out or worried that they don’t have the resources and support needed to do their job. This problem has only been made worse by pressure from C-suite executives looking to ramp up digital transformation efforts.

Burnout is linked to loss of motivation and engagement, which is detrimental to any company. To address this problem and help alleviate burnout, aim to make new projects more interesting for employees.

To help keep them motivated and engaged as they pivot from task to task, remove barriers and encourage close communication between development teams and clients. This not only creates an overall better team dynamic but also gives employees a sense of accountability. When both sides start talking to each other, the client will feel that all of their needs are being addressed by a team that genuinely wants them to succeed.

I’ve seen firsthand how our teams benefit from these more personal relationships by forming a stronger understanding and appreciation of the larger mission. In turn, team members develop an increased sense of ownership and responsibility, which makes them less likely to leave the organization.

Having a strong company culture and valuable perks is essential to stay ahead in today’s fierce battle for talent. These elements will help you build a strong connection with your employees and keep them more engaged and motivated within your organization.

[ Learn the non-negotiable skills, technologies, and processes CIOs are leaning on to build resilience and agility in this HBR Analytic Services report: Pillars of resilient digital transformation: How CIOs are driving organizational agility. ]

With over 20 years of experience in the technology industry, Natalie Kaminski is a dynamic and resourceful web and mobile technology entrepreneur. She is currently the CEO and founder of JetRockets, which builds unique software solutions to help clients achieve their business goals.