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How IT Managers Can Retain Talent in Today's Job Market

Are opportunities at other companies tempting your team of IT pros into exploring job openings elsewhere? Here are three best practices to retain your workers in this job market.

Whether you call it the Great Resignation or something else, after two years of a pandemic, many markets are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers for many positions. The pain is everywhere, including in IT departments.

Job openings in the Information sector doubled to 217,000 on the last day of December 2021 compared with 109,000 for the last day of December 2020, according to new numbers released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on February 1. In the professional and business services sector, job openings hit 1,875,000 on the last day of December 2021 as compared to 1,478,000 on the same day in 2020.

This shortage plus inflation is driving up the costs for employers in terms of worker compensation, according to a separate report last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 4% for the 12 months ended December 2021 versus 2.5% for the previous year. What’s more, wages and salaries specifically increased 4.5% for the 12 months ended December 2021 compared to 2.6% for the previous year.

The shortages of workers and increases in compensation are putting pressure on IT organizations that are already struggling to juggle multiple priorities -- accelerated digital transformations, an intensified cybersecurity threat environment, accommodating a complex web of jurisdictions’ rules around data privacy, and more tech budget dollars moving out of IT, to name a few. The IT talent shortage is expected to hobble emerging tech adoption.

How can you retain valuable and skilled technology workers for these important projects in this competitive market? Technology professionals know that now is the time to look for a new job if they want a raise. How do you keep them happy in your organization? Knowing the answer could be key to whether your enterprise is able to accomplish those priority projects in a timely fashion to stay competitive or fall behind the competition in technology implementations.

Gartner research director for the HR practice Jamie Kohn recently offered three recommendations for organizations to help them retain workers.

“In today’s increasingly competitive job market, employers face added pressure to retain employees,” she says. “However, many employees are looking outside their current organizations for their next move, rather than exploring internal opportunities, because they see unfairness in the internal hiring process.”

Gartner notes that a survey of 3,000 job candidates conducted in June 2021 revealed that only a third of those who sought a new job searched internally within their own organization first. That same survey showed that only 51% of candidates were aware of internal job openings available at their organizations.

The following are Gartner’s three recommendations for organizations looking to retain employees in the current market:

1. Use technology

The research organization recommends that companies use technology to democratize awareness of internal job opportunities. Relying on employee networks alone can perpetuate inequities by limiting equal access.

  • First, Gartner recommends firms use technology to help employees understand and visualize potential career paths beyond those related to their current jobs.
  • Next, enable employees to share their preferences. Employers can also let workers use technology to signal what jobs are of interest to them, even if there are no potential openings. This kind of capability can help HR determine the level of interest for specific job roles and the quality of the internal pipeline.
  • Finally, alert with tailored notifications. Organizations can engage their employees, especially those who have a more passive approach to their career paths, by providing notifications for new job opportunities within the organization, Gartner says. Leading organizations can take it one step further and tailor the notifications by skills and interests.

2. Open access to opportunities

Certain employees may gain an advantage in the internal market because of mentorship or better-informed career paths, Gartner notes. Gartner research shows the top barrier preventing candidates from pursuing a job opening internally is that there’s already a pre-identified favored candidate. To counter this and ensure fairness and equity, organizations should consider offering one-on-one professional coaching to each employee, including in the exploration of career opportunities.

3. Encourage support for mobility

Sometimes when an employee wants to pursue a new job internally, the support is just not there from their direct manager or co-workers. Gartner’s research shows only 17% of candidates say their manager facilitates the process of applying for internal jobs and only 20% feel supported by their peers and team. To counter this, managers should share knowledge about internal opportunities with their teams and advise their direct reports how their skills could transfer to a new role and what they need to do to be considered. Another possibility is for organizations to enable employees to bypass their managers in applying for new roles.

Taking these steps will help organizations hang onto the talent they have in a competitive labor market.

“In today’s environment where employers cannot buy the talent they need, they must ensure their ability to retain employees,” Kohn says.

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