How to attract and retain IT staff in 2012

Attracting and retaining skilled staff is all about money, flexibility and reward, social media, training and professional development

Candle Recruitment executive general manager, Linda Trevor.

Candle Recruitment executive general manager, Linda Trevor.

The tight Australian IT job market has been touted as a blessing for job seekers and a curse for employers. Hamish Barwick looks at strategies companies can use to stop valued staff jumping ship.

With an economy the envy of the OECD and a long-running IT skills shortage showing little sign of abatement, technology workers have the ability to pick and choose their roles and dictate terms like never before.

For employers, attracting staff is only half the battle. Poaching is rampant, staff loyalty low and demands for flexibility, pay and perks high. However, all is not doom and gloom as there are tools and tactics available to secure their skills your organisation needs.

Increasingly, employer-employee discussion centre around money, and obviously money can solve many problems. But equally, negotiations can be more subtle and employee priorities can be more about workplace culture and freedoms: such as the use of social media and BYO devices at work.

Encouraging staff to take on new roles and develop, as well as carrots such as longer periods of leave, working from home arrangement and more flexible hours are also helping used to keep employees happy, motivated and working for you, rather than the competition.

Computerworld Australia speaks to the experts to glean their top five tools for attracting and retaining staff.

Tip One: Show me the Money

There’s no escaping it: the number one means of attracting and retaining staff is, ultimately, all about the money. The challenge, Candle Recruitment general manager, Linda Trevor, says is that salaries at present are highly competitive, and due to multiple drivers. For one, IT wages are typically higher in Perth, WA, due to the mining boom, creating a strong source of competition for east-coast based organisations.

Large-scale IT projects, put on ice due to the cooling of the global market during the past couple of years have also begun thawing, putting pressure on wages in NSW and Victoria she says.

The high number of contract workers within the IT skills pool also means those wishing to lure contractors into full-time work are either faced with a huge wages bill— to compete with the higher pay rates inherent in contracting arrangements – or must look beyond pure remuneration.

“People will try to tie contractors down with permanent roles but if someone is going to offer a contractor a permanent job they have to offer some benefits because otherwise they’re not going to do it,” Trevor says.

For example, employers would need to offer greater flexibility, such as the opportunity to work from home or on-the-job-training which they could not otherwise get through their contracting arrangements.

“Project managers and business analysts are in demand in all states but the most important thing with the job roles is people are looking for multi-skilled people who can do two types of jobs or have very good business and communication skills,” she says.

“It used to be that you could put a developer in the corner and they wouldn’t speak to anybody but it’s not like that anymore because people are much more involved in the project.”

Trevor adds that the ability to attract staff can also hinge less on the money, but more on the industry and whether it is known for having exciting projects for staff to challenges themselves with and hone their skills.

By way of example she points to government as being able to attract IT recruits because major projects are now going ahead following the global financial crises. Telecommunication companies, banks and resources companies are also in the midst of major transformation and enablement projects.

Next tip: Flexibility and Rewards

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