The local IT industry is a very diverse community but, no matter who I speak to, there's one topic that comes into the conversation time and again - the skills shortage.
I would suggest that finding enough talented people to operate at full steam is keeping more business leaders awake at night than any other issue at the moment and, in a market where good people are hard to come by, the bad news is that retaining them will prove to be even harder.
I came across a survey last week conducted in the US recently by IT staffing consultancy, Robert Half Technology, which asked 1400 CIOs how they retain their leading talent when skills are in short supply. To use the American vernacular, rule number one is that you'd better be prepared to 'pony up' because 27 per cent cited increased compensation as the most effective strategy.
Hardly surprising because we all know money talks, especially in conversations with your leading sales staff, but the truth is that financial incentives alone will sometimes fail to seal the deal. In a constrained market, there are plenty of other organisations out there willing to offer your best people above market rates to jump the fence.
So what else can you do? More than 20 per cent of the CIOs in the survey I mentioned earlier said professional training or development was a useful tool and 18 per cent offered flexible schedules. No matter which industry you operate in, and IT is by no means alone in struggling to find enough talent, keeping your people up-to-speed on the technologies that are relevant to their job and providing a clearly communicated career development plan are vital.
Good training should lead to better performance, because it provides additional skills, but it also makes people feel like an important asset to the company and can build loyalty. Personal development plans can obviously have a similar effect because they provide goals for people to work towards, which again helps develop a bond between employee and employer.
Referring back to the survey again, 7 per cent of CIOs were offering employees the chance to telecommute and 6 per cent tried beefing up holiday entitlements.
Time is just as valuable as money for some people and telecommuting is also a useful way of bringing parents with young children back into the workforce. A further 2 per cent dangle stock or other options as a carrot - because there's nothing like a share of the profits to make you feel like one of the team!
Locally, I've heard from a couple of people that their companies are offering current staff financial incentives for nominating people they know for vacant positions. This is a great idea because they will already have some idea of the person's cultural fit and nobody is going to nominate somebody that's unsuitable for a job (no matter how good a friend they are) when their own reputation is on the line.
For more on the skills shortage, visit <b>www.arnnet.com.au/channelwatch</b>
Brian Corrigan is the editorial director of ARN