A slumping economy notwithstanding, money is still not the best way to keep employees, according to a Meta Group analyst.

In a recent Webcast, Meta’s program director for human capital management (HCM) Maria Schafer says

that despite more people competing for fewer jobs, retaining key IT staff is still a challenge.

“”We see that there just has to be a greater focus on the high-value staff and that we also have to be able to provide as organizations greater degrees of flexibility if we’re going to keep these high-performance staff,”” she said. “”That means greater use of things like telecommuting, more flexible types of benefits and work and life/balance options that we offer to people.””

Howard Hess of Toronto-based Hess Associates Executive Search, a high-tech recruiting firm, said employees might not ask for monetary incentives.

“”People don’t have a heck of a lot of options,”” he said. “”From what I gather in the marketplace, although things are starting to open up a little bit, the thinking is, ‘I’m lucky if I don’t get let go.'””

Even if an employee were inclined to rock the boat, there might not be much to get.

“”Stock options are not really the perk they used to be,”” he said. “”The economy and the stock market has kind of conspired to allow companies to retain people without having to go through a tremendous amount of trouble,”” Hess said.

From a management perspective, Schafer said there are three key issues in staff retention. One is assessing skill availability and balances. Another is establishing a talent index — how do you motivate and develop IT employees and which should you focus on developing? Finally, organizations must examine paying IT staff–what are the strategies that work?

There are some tools to help in the HCM process, but Schafer said they have a long way to go. What these products lack is the ability to deal with an employee’s career needs, track performance management, and other tasks as people go through “”their employee work cycle.”” What’s more important, she said, is having the proper processes in place.

“”Good human capital management is a strategic exercise; a by-product of good strategic human capital management is employees that are more engaged and committed and able to be effective on the job,”” Schafer said.

“”But that’s a by-product. The real reason to do this is because it’s going to improve the bottom line.””

When it comes to hiring, Schafer said the current trend isn’t to hire based on skill sets, but personality profile. The goal is to find someone who acts like a partner, understands the business, the customers and their needs, is a self-directed, performance-driven, problem solver, and above all is a team player. She added these qualities are the polar opposite of those prized in hierarchical organizations with a boss/employee mentality.

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