“What the emergent worker of today wants out a job is very different than what our parents wanted,” Courtney says. “They were willing to swap money for the security of a long-term position. Today’s workers are willing to swap money for flexible work schedule, continuous education, and sexy IT projects.”
At USi, for example, many employees are full-time commuters, whereas others work flextime schedules. That helps the company attract and retain desirable candidates, Barker says.
However, there’s still a significant gap between what employees want and what many companies are willing to give. For example, in Spherion’s 2005 Emerging Workforce Study, conducted by Harris Interactive, 60 percent of employees rated time and flexibility as key factors in deciding whether to take or keep a job, but only 35 percent of employers rated it
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Reviving old-school perks
To paraphrase an old song, if you can’t hire the ones you love, love the ones you’re with. Business growth is driving a lot of new hires in the IT space. But when possible, retaining and retraining existing employees is a better long-term strategy for success. It’s also cheaper. Courtney estimates it costs companies nearly $60,000 to replace a single employee.
The most effective retention device is paying people to stick around, says Harry Wallaesa, founder of tech consultancy The W Group and a former CIO at Campbell Soup.
“But No. 2 is creating a sense of belonging,” Wallaesa says. “You need to make people feel like they’re truly making a contribution to the organization. In some cases, people value that more than they value money.”
To retain top talent, IT organizations are also dusting off old-style perks such as creating collegial work environments, faster career paths, and more on-the-job training (see “Targeted training keeps workers sharp.")
“Companies are beginning to take a more employee-centric approach, offering workday outings like golf tournaments and after-work cocktail hours,” notes Tracy Cashman, partner at Boston-based recruiting company Winter, Wyman & Co. “But they’re also more likely to offer better raises and faster promotions to deserving employees, rather than risk losing them to their competition and having to put forward counteroffers.”
Finding and keeping top IT talent is always a challenge, especially in today’s red-hot job market. But it’s easier if you’re willing to consider fresh approaches and take risks.
“We still end up kissing a lot of frogs to find one prince,” ITA’s McDonald notes. “But it’s not as hard as it could have been. We have a relatively unique story, so when we attract someone, we really attract them. It’s a good position to be in.”