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High IT Turnover? How to Retain Your Tech Talent

High IT Turnover? How to Retain Your Tech Talent
Credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Employers who are not attuned to the needs and frustrations of their IT staff may be facing an increase in turnover in 2017.

A recent study released by Spiceworks, a social network for IT professionals, suggests that personnel losses may be imminent for companies reluctant to increase IT budgets and keep pace with technological change. Of the 476 respondents participating in the study, a sizable percentage (37 percent) said they plan to begin searching for a new employer this year, while 26 percent are gearing up to accept a new job.

For many IT professionals, the prospects for career advancement at their current place of employment are slim. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed believe that they're underpaid, and fewer than 1 out of 4 expects a salary increase greater than 5 percent. Only 12 percent are anticipating a promotion this year, and many are frustrated by the lack of support they receive from company leaders when it comes to prioritizing and funding critical IT projects.

Although a substantial number of organizations anticipates revenue growth in 2017, the Spiceworks study shows that IT budgets will, for the most part, remain flat. Specific concerns emphasized by respondents include data security, up-to-date IT infrastructure, and timely upgrades to end-of-life software and operating systems.

Other than being motivated by higher salaries and the prospect of career advancement, IT professionals are gravitating toward employers that provide opportunities for skills development and IT certification. Cybersecurity expertise is seen by professionals as a vitally important skill set to acquire, with 62 percent saying they plan on pursuing training in that area.

A majority of employers, however, do not view the issue with the same degree of urgency. In its 2017 Tech Career Outlook, Spiceworks reports that 55 percent of organizations do not currently employ or contract with a cybersecurity expert, and that companies are often hesitant to invest in security training for IT staff.

The good news for IT job seekers, however, is that the tide seems to be turning. CareerBuilder, an HR management and software company, recently characterized the hiring outlook for 2017 as being "the best the U.S. has seen in a decade," and listed information technology recruiting as a top priority for companies preparing to add personnel.

Spiceworks' IT analyst, Peter Tsai, says many IT professionals do not get the hands-on training they need to advance their careers, and that's one of the leading reasons people are considering changing jobs this year.

"One important step employers can take to reduce turnover," he said, "is to encourage IT pros to always keep learning." Employers can do this "by offering to pay for the training that IT pros clearly desire, in the form of technical courses, certification exams, or attendance to tech conferences," Tsai added.

Tsai believes that monetary incentives will go a long way toward retaining talented IT staff, but he says other key factors need to be considered.

"Because demand for qualified tech professionals is high and the market is favorable for job seekers, another important step employers can take to reduce turnover is to make sure their staff isn't overworked and compensation is on par with the market," he said, noting that long hours are common in the IT field. "If businesses want to retain their most valued staff members, they need to ensure those employees won't be tempted to jump ship if a job offer comes along."

Joel N. Sussman

Joel Sussman is a freelance writer from upstate New York with 33 years of experience in journalism, public relations and marketing. He also has a background in business proposal writing, search engine optimization and news reporting. In addition to writing blog posts and website content for small business owners, he's also developing his own blog on business startup ideas and entrepreneurship.