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Keeping IT Staff Happy In Tough Times

Money is always quick and easy bait to keep valued staff from leaving. But how do you retain -- or even attract -- key talent when budgets are tight?
Money is always quick and easy bait to keep valued staff from leaving. But how do you retain -- or even attract -- key talent when budgets are tight?A recent survey of 1,400 CIOs by tech staffing firm Robert Half Technology found that more than a quarter -- 27% -- think that increasing compensation is the most effective way to improve staff retention. Money was the top answer provided by the CIOs.

However, a new InformationWeek salary report being published on April 28 (and available online starting Saturday, April 26,) indicates that raises for IT professionals these days are shrinking.

In the weakening economy, employers seem to be taking a more cautious approach in doling out bonuses and pay raises, according to the compensation trends reported by the more than 9,600 IT pros who participated in the 2008 InformationWeek IT salary survey. Raises have been smaller during the recent 12 months than they were the previous year, according to our survey. And for some IT folks, paychecks are even shrinking.

So, if you're an IT manager or CIO at an organization that's zipping shut the payroll purse, what else can you do to help lure talent? The Robert Half Technology report found the No. 2 most effective way of retaining talent is offering professional development and training, according to 21% of the CIOs surveyed. Sounds like a good idea, right?

But, oops! Unfortunately, training dollars are often slashed in tough times, too.

That leads us to a few inexpensive perks that CIOs say work well for keeping staff happy. Allowing workers to keep flexible schedules and telecommute are effective retention tools used by 18% and 7% of CIOs respectively, according to the Robert Half Technology report. And given the rising cost to fill your car's gas tank, telecommuting is likely becoming a more enticing job perk for workers in any industry.

And since time is as valuable as money to many people, 6% of CIOs say that giving staff extra vacation days or time off is a good way to bolster loyalty. Only 2% of CIOs said granting company stock or options worked in keeping staff. Apparently, stock options are among the perks that lost appeal to many techies after the dot-com bust.

What is your organization doing to attract and retain tech talent?