IT hiring picks up: How to add (or retain) staff

When IT hiring accelerates, it can be good or bad news. On the one hand, companies are expanding their departments. On the other, you risk losing your best people to the competition.

This shuffling of IT talent is nothing new. But the numbers are starting to reach impressive levels.

In November alone, IT added 17,300 jobs nationwide. In October, the economy added 12,900, according to Foote Associates. One or two solid months of hiring are good signs, although not proof positive that IT hiring will remain high going forward.

But it’s important to be prepared for an uptick in demand for IT pros, whether it’s to add staff or just make sure your own people aren’t being hired away.

Retaining staff

Unemployment in the IT sector is much lower than other areas (a minuscule 3%, by some accounts). So new hires are mostly moving from one company to another.

To retain your people, make sure to:

  • Provide growth opportunities. Allow techs to take ownership of issues and areas of expertise. If they’re the top person in an area, they’ll feel more connected to the job and less tempted to look elsewhere.
  • Use exit interviews. When a tech leaves, find out what got them to start looking rather than what led to their leaving. The answer to the latter will usually be better pay, but the things that prompted them to begin the job search are more firmly in your control.
  • Encourage time off. Most techs don’t use all the time off they’re given or aren’t using it wisely. Encourage them to take a complete break from the job, and make sure you have others who can fill in so you won’t have to check in while they’re away.

To attract talent

If your department is lucky enough to be hiring, here are some things to look for:

  • Check the job posting. Too often the original description of a job sticks long after the position and its duties change. Make sure you’re checking postings regularly so that you get workers who are actually interested in the job you have available rather than the one they think they’re applying to.
  • Interview for a career path. Explain how the job they’re interviewing for now could result in future opportunities. If there’s a position that’s a logical next step from the one they’re applying for, let them know that. If not, let them know if they’ll have opportunities to apply for other positions in the department.
  • Don’t wait for the perfect candidate. Perfect is definitely the enemy of the good in IT hiring. If you continue your search until you find that elusive perfect candidate, you’ll miss out on plenty of qualified and potentially great fits along the way.

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