This article first appeared in InformationWeek, a partner publication.
A record-setting 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March, according to data released in early May by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During a time of record staff turnover, IT leaders are pulling out all the stops in an effort to keep their teams as intact and productive as possible.
While salary increases remain a highly effective retention tool, a growing number of employers are sweetening the pot with inexpensive perks that are designed to reinforce team satisfaction and loyalty. Non-traditional perks have been used with some success for retaining IT talent, observes Geoff Hopkins, a principal with tax and audit consulting firm RSM.
“The challenge,” he notes, “is identifying and establishing these perks to suit your IT organization,” Hopkins said.
Free and Flexible
Flexible working hours and remote work are crucial perks, says Dawn Duench, people and culture manager at digital workplace technology provider Igloo Software.
“Almost all of Igloo Software’s new hires want flexible work, especially IT staff members,” she says. “The candidates we interview ask about our stance on flexible work during the recruitment process.”
Working remotely or using a hybrid model is increasingly viewed by IT leaders and hiring managers as an effective way to keep employees satisfied.
“Reducing commute times, transit expenses, and gas costs, while enabling employees to spend more time with family, allowing them to live where they want … will eventually lead to increased productivity and dedication,” says Daniel Nir, human resources manager at workflow automation software developer Mirato.
IT is frequently a high-pressure job, and allowing staff to choose the hours that work best for them acknowledges that a company appreciates their efforts, says Zoë Morris, president of technology staff recruitment firm Frank Recruitment Group.
“Since implementing this [policy], we’ve seen nothing but positive feedback -- it’s another way of showing our staff that they’re trusted and valued,” Morris said.
Allowing various working options, whether flexible hours or remote work, highlights your commitment to offering employees the sort of flexibility they’re looking for to not only feel empowered at work, but also to support their well-being, she observes.
Other Popular Perks
Professional development, particularly in the form of IT training and education, can help team members meet their professional goals while encouraging them to remain within the organization.
“Provide employees training within the team or mentoring by a senior manager,” Nir advises. “Thanks to recent technological advances, there are an unlimited number of free learning resources, podcasts, webinars, and online courses available.”
While perks can help create a positive employee experience, leading to long-term staff retention, they're no substitute for an environment that treasures knowledge, skills, and imagination.
“Companies must also create opportunities for people to develop their careers,” Duench says. “While perks cannot make up for the absence of these key areas, they can add value to the employee experience and in turn help to retain IT staff if a strong foundation is in place.”
On a lighter note, Duench recommends rewarding team members with additional free time.
“From the beginning of June to the end of August, our employees only work a half day on Fridays, and it's not expected that they make up the four hours throughout the week,” she says. “This is great for work-life balance and mental health as it provides additional time to reset over the weekend.”
To organize and coordinate perks programs, Hopkins suggests creating an events committee to establish and organize various organization initiatives. “Working with IT staff to establish a culture of trust and value and offering to align to their perk needs has produced good results,” he notes.
Hopkins believes that small niceties, such as “no meeting Fridays;” easy access to snacks, and beverages; and occasionally funding small, individual “passion projects,” can pay big dividends in terms of performance and loyalty. He also recommends providing time off for volunteering and social impact work, as well as sponsoring success recognition and reward programs.
Team members need to feel that they're working for an enterprise that not only cares about their skills but values them as human beings.
“While perks shouldn’t be the only way you try to minimize any staff turnover, it’s proven to be an effective way to start,” Morris says.
Pay close attention to your team, and never take them for granted, Nir says.
“Employees have different wants and needs at different times,” he notes. “The more you can do to figure out what makes them feel appreciated by giving them the perks they like, such as flexibility, wellness, or professional development, the longer you'll keep them around.”
John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.