Hint: Money is not always the answer.

At two recent conferences I participated in panels addressing the issue of how to retain IT staff. It is obviously a hot and relevant topic.

All agreed that increasing salaries is only a short-term solution. An organization needs to develop a total compensation strategy that is not just about money but also addresses how to engage the employee in what the organization is doing while at the same time ensuring the employee feels appreciated.

While government organizations can’t match the private sector’s salary scale, they can offer other benefits such as flexible hours, better pension plans and better job security. Working from home for a couple of days a week is also a valuable benefit.

One of the programs that is highly valued by IT staff is to support them in keeping up with technology advances. This also benefits the organisation as their staff will be able to use these skills on the job. Offer tuition assistance and encourage IT staff to enhance their skills or learn new ones.

Something that doesn’t cost any money but is important to employees – both in IT and in general – is publicly and genuinely acknowledging their hard work. They also appreciate hearing how their work directly contributes to the organization’s goals. This will give more meaning to what they do and help them feel good about the importance of their work and how it relates to their organization’s success.

For many employees, maintaining a good work-life balance is more important than money. Find out if this an issue and use it as an additional benefit.

While most organisations do exit interviews with departing employees, only a few do “happy” interviews with a few of their current staff to find out what aspects of the organization have led them to choose to stay. Once a trend or benefit is identified, enhance it and talk about it at staff meetings and the company’s employee’s portal. This may further enhance employee retention.

No, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for retaining employees. One key lesson I have observed is just providing a salary increase will not ensure that your staff will remain. But if you use some of the techniques above, at least they know that they are appreciated and are more likely to stay.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Catherine Aczel Boivie
Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie is a widely respected executive with over 30 years of experience in the leadership of advancing the value of information technology as a business and education enabler. Prior executive roles includes: CEO Inventure Solutions and Senior Vice President of Information Technology/Facility Management for Vancity Credit Union; SVP of IT and Chief Information Officer at Pacific Blue Cross and Canadian Automobile Association of British Columbia. Catherine is also an experienced board member serving on several boards, including those of Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, Canada Foundation for Innovation and MedicAlert Canada. Dr. Boivie is the founding Chair and President of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Association of Canada that has over 400 Chief Information Officers as members across Canada. She has been publicly recognized for her contributions, including being named as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network in the "Trailblazers and Trendsetters" category and the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for being a "catalyst for technology transformation".