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Use IT staff retention strategies to maintain a successful business

A first-class IT staff is hard to find and keep, but convincing them to stick around is a necessary investment for a successful business.

Acquiring new employees can be expensive. Knowing what I know about the IT field and what's expected in the typical IT job role, I suspect the cost of acquiring IT professionals is as high as that of any other position. This is due in part to the limited pool of truly skilled IT professionals.

According to a recent Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report, 72% of Atlanta-based CIOs said it's somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals. I hear this from my clients and colleagues. The truth is, good IT folks are both hard to find and hard to keep. And those with exceptional communication skills are especially rare.

Acquiring IT talent is directly related to how you can retain talent. If you want to minimize the negative impact of finding new IT professionals, focus on retaining the good ones you already have since you've already made a considerable business investment in them.

Working in IT requires a person to undergo continual training to meet ongoing requirements for specialized certifications such as CISSP, which can add value to your staff. It can also take considerable time to learn a business's network and application environment. Once the IT staff gains this knowledge, it's extremely valuable and takes a considerable amount of time, money and effort to replace a staff member.

IT staff retention strategies

Given that IT staff members are often the only keepers of critical system information -- including passwords, network configurations and vendor contacts -- there can be a detrimental impact when this information repository suddenly goes away. In the hands of those with malicious intent, this information can even be used against the business.

If you're responsible for hiring and keeping knowledgeable, dependable and trusted IT professionals, you need to go out of your way keep them happy. I'm not saying those in IT need special treatment, but they need the same treatment that's provided to, say, the sales team. The IT staff may not be generating sales like the sales team is, but good IT staff retention practices are every bit as valuable for keeping the business running successfully.

The bottom line is that a well-run IT department with people who know management has their backs is at the core of a well-run business. Treating IT professionals as easily replaceable or disposable resources is shortsighted. Don't make them the scapegoat when network and application problems arise or when a data breach occurs. As much as IT professionals like to think the business revolves around them, and as much as business managers tend to shrug off their IT staff as techies who don't understand the business, IT can only be successful with the proper involvement of all parties.

There are a lot of egos in IT -- embrace them as part of the job. There are also a lot of people who keep to themselves in IT -- give them the space they need. Many high-end tools are needed to properly secure and manage a business's information systems, so provide a reasonable budget for procuring what's needed and for required training to ensure everything runs efficiently. In addition, recognize staff members for their work by praising them and your peers in IT. Praise them publicly when you can. And, finally, get rid of your IT staff members who aren't pulling their weight. You know who they are.

About the author:
Kevin Beaver has worked for himself for more than 11 years as an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management and is the author and co-author of many books, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and Hacking for Dummies.

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