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Eight best practices for retaining IT talent

All companies concentrate on hiring the right people for IT, but few focus on retaining them. These tips will help you engage your staff members and build loyalty within the group.

Given our current economic climate, you wouldn’t think it’s necessary to focus on retaining the IT professionals in your company’s workforce. But it’s not true. There’s still plenty of IT work to go around, especially for those who have the ambition to make things happen. IT plays a critical role in business today, so it’s essential that you hang onto the right people. These are the people you know and trust -- the people that help your business move forward.

To keep your organization running and the ship afloat, here are eight things you can do to make your talented IT staff feel appreciated and want to stick around:

1. Put your employees in the right positions, and remember that people skills are important yet often forgotten about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen otherwise great IT professionals stuck in the wrong positions. Don't just try to match your employees' skill sets; consider their personalities and dispositions too. Ensure your IT staff's responsibilities are in line with their skills and watch them excel.

2. Help foster a positive culture. Give your staff members insight into the organization’s goals and culture. If you focus on company culture rather than strict rules and policies, your employees will be more apt to buy in.

3. Publicly recognize your IT staff's hard work. Make sure everyone else in your company knows that your staff serves as good examples of your business’s culture. If they do something to save the company money, let the rest of your employees know that.

4. Train, train and train some more. I come across lots of folks in IT who have received little to no training. Some of them may choose not to go through training, but others miss out because it’s "not in budget." In my opinion, that notion is ridiculous. Periodic and consistent training will educate, motivate and give your staff the mental breaks they need and deserve. Training is always a great reinvestment in your company. A good way to tie training and education into the business is to set goals and tie them into employee reviews and compensation increases.

5. Give your IT staff the tools they need. I tell customers that Microsoft and other vendors often provide enough of what’s needed to manage the network. But every environment is unique, and there are always new ways to provide greater visibility and the control needed to make things more efficient and secure.

6. Include IT in long-term planning Show your staff how they can help your business when it comes to long-term and strategic issues. Don't rely on them solely to put out fires and address technical problems. Get your IT staff involved in business meetings and let them provide input. Gaining a fresh perspective can help your organization tremendously while simultaneously letting your staff know their opinions mean something.

7. Take time to laugh and bond. Things as simple as team sports and periodic gatherings away from the office can do wonders. They serve to cut tension and facilitate better communication among staff members. And even more important, they help reduce stress.

8. Communicate. I find communication to be subpar in so many businesses around the world. Poor communication almost always leads to discouragement and limited accountability -- neither of which is good in IT departments.

It's vital to establish and maintain two-way dialogue. It should never be management versus everyone in IT, but rather everyone working together. Have real one-on-one conversations regarding your employees’ roles in IT. Take the time to check in. It really does matter.

About the author: Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness, author and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. With over 22 years of experience in the industry, Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around minimizing information risks. He has authored/co-authored nine books on information security including the best-selling <i>Hacking For Dummies</i>. In addition, he’s the creator of the Security On Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. You can reach Kevin through his website and follow him on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.


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