When it comes to retention strategies, most people think of salary increases, beefed-up benefits and more flexible schedules. However, according to a new survey, executives are increasingly using another method to retain employees: training. In a recent survey from Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, 1,400 chief information officers from companies with 100 or more employees were asked, “What steps, if any, is your firm taking to retain key IT talent?” Of those, 63 percent responded, “providing training or professional development.”
According to Robert Half Technology Executive Director Katherine Spencer Lee, many firms realize that technology workers, as well as other professionals, value continuing education opportunities. “I think that companies are looking at it because it’s more cost-effective,” she said. “It’s a win-win scenario. Not only is an individual staff member receiving training to enhance skill sets, but also executives are saying, ‘If my workforce is more skilled, it will benefit both of us.’”
Lee said this approach is often more cost-effective than simply raising base salary compensation. “If you look at retention as a marathon not a sprint, a marathon can be a company saying, ‘Let me enhance your skill set. Let me help you become more productive.’ That’s the cost-effective piece.”
Lee said training can lead to retention because employees value it. “It empowers employees to go through some type of training that would enable them to become stronger communicators,” Lee said. “Employees feel empowered by that because it means that companies are interested in them generating ideas. They’re interested in what employees have to say. Training is being used as a customization of career planning. Companies are interested in their career paths. They’re asking, ‘Where do you want to be?’ ‘How do you want to get there?’ That provides a great retention tool because it can be hugely motivating.”
Although enhancing employees’ skill sets can make them more marketable to other employers, Lee said that’s a risk companies have to take to retain and attract staff. “It’s kind of looking at it from a ‘glass half full or half empty’ stance. Am I going to be an employer of choice and the best in the marketplace? Or am I’m not going to be an employer of choice because I’m worried people will leave me?”
The survey also revealed that in addition to training, CIOs still use some standard retention methods as well. Of the CIOs, who were allowed to pick multiple responses in the survey, 47 percent said they’re offering flexible schedules and 41 percent are increasing base compensation. Offering bonuses and offering equity incentives also generated responses, with 31 percent and 9 percent respectively. Of those polled, 23 percent said they aren’t taking any steps to increase retention.
Although nearly a quarter of respondents said they have no retention strategies, Lee said overall companies are starting to realize that quality-of-life strategies are necessary to retain workers. “I think people are more proactively looking at burnout than reactivity looking at it. The survey is a very, very good sign. Clearly I think companies are looking to be proactive.”
According to Lee, effective retention programs also address work-life balance and salary issues. “Offering flexible schedules or telecommuting options is a cost-effective way to improve overall job satisfaction, show appreciation and build loyalty,” she said. “Competitive compensation packages are equally important and demonstrate to employees that their contributions are valued.”Filed under: Technology