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How to attract (and keep) the best IT talent in your workforce

Are you having trouble attracting (and keeping) the best talent in your IT workforce? What can talent managers do to keep up in a highly competitive field where many of the old rules are being tossed out the window? You might be surprised to learn some of the things top organizations do in order to drive success!

Here are the top 10 things IT people look for in a job:

1. Salary

Money talks, yes it still does, now more than ever! The old adage holds even truer today than it did in the past. Rising real estate and heavy inflation have not made things easier! In order to attract top talent don’t just offer a competitive salary, but a lucrative one.

2. Flexibility

Working from home is a big driver for IT people. Many businesses insist on having IT people “available on hand” in case something goes wrong, or worse because they don’t trust them to work responsibly without supervision – but in reality, technology (especially with the advent of the cloud) can enable your IT to work very effectively from home. Not only does this save money on brick and mortar costs, but it also greatly reduces stress by removing one of the top stress drivers in our lives – commuting!

3. Learning opportunities

Talented people love to learn! Give them time off to study. Offer to sponsor their education, whether or not you think it contributes to the success of your business. The mistake companies often make is only offering something if they think if benefits them directly. In reality talented people have an intense and inherent need to exercise and expand their minds. Virtually any form of education will not only provide the needed stimulus to continue driving great ideas from your top talent, but chances are they will also walk away with at least one new or improved skill!

4. Autonomy

Talented people take pride in their work. Give them a task and let them run with it. Never dismiss new ideas, instead be open to them and take the time to sit down and analyze the challenges these ideas bring rather than “we can’t do X because of Y”.

Further, IT people don’t like micro managers. Are you breathing down your IT worker’s necks? Are you a clock watcher? Do you need to be constantly “in the know” and delegating tasks? Are you burdening them with project managers who know how to run a project but don’t understand the complexity of the work at hand? It may come as a shock to you that most IT people are *project managers by nature; *their very job is to keep things running. Adding an extra person into the mix comes across as distrustful, i.e. lacking faith in the knowledge that your IT people have spent most of their lives studying and practicing.

5. Chaos!

Talented people simultaneously love and hate chaos! The key is how your company deals with that chaos. If you’re constantly running into breakdowns but *refuse to allocate a budget, time and resources to fix those problems *(band-aid solutions don’t count!), then it is nearly a guarantee you will lose top talent no matter how much you pay them! And chances are, your top talent already knows what to do to fix these problems – so listen to them!

6. Expectations

First of all, there’s no such thing as an unreasonable request. Instead, a top challenge for IT people comes in the form of managing expectations – things like timeframes, resources, budgets and deadlines. Often IT people are given zero flexibility with any of the above, but the business depends on the tasks at hand in order to continue working. In other words, managing expectations continues to be a challenge in a field where the function of the business often takes priority over, well, the function of the business! Think about how crazy that sounds for a minute…

7. Respect

Again, here’s an old piece of wisdom that seldom seems to get applied. True, respect is earned. But with that said, it’s also a two-way street. Many organizations view their IT as a tool for their business; they see IT as a means to an end rather than a function that can help their business grow. IT people aren’t just a way to “keep things running” – they’re a core part of the business that given time, nurturing and investment can actually help your business grow.

8. Stigma (this one may come as a bit of a shock)

It’s 2017, the year of breaking new ground on gender-neutral pronouns and personal identification, yet there is still a lot of stigma being propagated against IT people. Some folks call IT people nerds, others say things like “my computer is always broken and those darn geeks never do anything to fix it”.

These are toxic statements that circulate and permeate nearly every company and they should be treated the same way as sexism. IT people are just regular people – not nerds, geeks, or “computer people” or any other label. We are people with a passion about what we do – in the same way a carpenter or an electrician is passionate about their work.

9. Distractions

A top complaint among IT people is having to deal with a constant stream of menial helpdesk requests. Sure it’s part of the job – many IT people are so passionate about their jobs that they actually thrive on helping people. That said, if your top talent is embroiled in a massive project or trying desperately to keep the ship righted, the last thing they want to do is pull themselves away from that script, piece of code or broken server to go help the CEO install batteries in his cordless mouse. These kinds of distractions are not only dangerous to the health of your IT infrastructure but they will eventually cause IT people to flee.

Does the lineup in front of your IT room look like this?

Think about it – would you distract a firefighter if your house was on fire and he was hosing it down? If your company needs a helpdesk, then invest in one! There are plenty of new IT people fresh out of school looking to nail that first job on their resume (BCIT is a great source of newly emerging talent), and level 1 helpdesk is a great way to start.

Likewise, don’t expect your tier 1 helpdesk to instantly take over the role of a level 3 systems administrator (especially if they’re busy juggling helpdesk requests all day). If you don’t have a suitable candidate, then give your juniors the training they need and nurture them into the role.

10. Personal Health

In line with the previous key points mentioned in this article is personal health. So why does it deserve its own mention? Because physical and mental health go hand-in-hand with keeping people happy (not just IT people, but this applies to everyone in the workforce). Think about it – where do IT people spend most of their time? Sitting at a desk. Spend money on ergonomics! A good chair, an adjustable desk and monitors, proper lighting, and more importantly giving your people flexibility to exercise and take breaks throughout the day is important for your workers’ personal health.

Further, show a little concern for your workers’ mental health too – IT people spend most of their time dealing with complex issues, meaning they expend a lot of mental energy. For that reason alone, providing regular breaks, willing distractions (think fidget spinners) and even extra vacation time can go a long ways towards keeping your workers sane and operating at their best.

Conclusion / About the author:

Perfect Leap Technology Inc. specializes in helping companies overcome the challenges of their IT environments. As a “jack of all trades” IT person with approximately 10 years in the industry, Joel has spent a lot of time learning and understanding the inner challenges of how technology interacts in the business world, and has worked in nearly every field including Public Service (gov’t), medical, dental, VFX and retail.

If you would like a consultation or for more information, please feel free to visit www.perfectleap.com or reach out to Joel on LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading!

Joel DeTeves

Joel DeTeves

Technology Pro, Investor, Founder @ Perfect Leap™. Opinions expressed are my own.

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