Technology is a key driver of business growth for nearly all organizations today. So as the role of technology becomes more crucial, and the scarcity of IT talent becomes more apparent, organizations are competing fiercely for a limited supply of IT talent.
So it begs the question, how do the best places to work in IT manage to stand out from the crowd?
Factors That Attract and Retain IT Employees
ComputerWorld magazine releases an annual list of the best IT workplaces in the country. The magazine looks at a number of factors to determine "the best," including IT employee satisfaction surveys, benefits, salaries, training opportunities, career development opportunities, chances for promotion, how interesting/challenging the work is, workplace flexibility, company culture and mission.
As Scott Finnie, editor-in-chief of ComputerWorld, explains, "In a tight market for tech talent, these outstanding employers attract the best and brightest IT pros with generous salaries and top-drawer benefits, then deepen their teams' engagement with challenging, business-critical projects built around cutting-edge technologies. As a result, these winning organizations are best positioned to take advantage of the digital transformation sweeping through every industry."
According to InformationWeek, a strong sense of mission is an essential element of attracting and retaining IT talent: "In tech, it's especially common to find a mission-driven culture. After all, it's an industry where it's not uncommon to find engineers and developers sleeping under their desks, rather than heading home, as they prepare to launch a product." Texas-based USAA, which provides financial services to the U.S. military, reports that many of the IT employees at USAA chose the organization because they were especially attracted to the "mission-driven work and sense of purpose."
Flexibility and Workplace Climate
Unsurprisingly, IT employees are tech-savvy and increasingly expect flexibility in the workplace, such as remote working and digital solutions for training, benefits administration and payroll. Today's HR and IT leaders confront "a workforce that is much more opinionated," said Google CIO Ben Fried in an interview with Harvard Business Review, "already knowing how to work, already having made a choice about how it wants to work." So employers should strive to accommodate these flexibility requests, largely supported by digital technologies.
IT employees need to update their skills on a near constant basis. To recruit and retain IT talent effectively, investments in training are a must. For example, Ohio-based materials organization, Owens Corning, is so focused on ensuring that their IT team can get access to the knowledge they need to succeed that they place no limit on the number of days IT employees can devote annually to training.
IT talent wants to work on challenging and interesting projects and to be at the cutting edge of technological developments. The best places to work in IT offer exactly that. San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare, for instance, offers IT employees opportunities to grow "through work on initiatives involving cutting-edge technologies, such as telework and telemedicine systems." At St. Louis-based agro-tech organization Monsanto, IT teams are allowed to select the technical challenges they want to tackle. Monsanto's IT teams "have autonomous decision-making responsibility for selecting technologies to solve business problems ... [Monsanto] lets IT employees work on projects of their choice that have potential for business value."
In a competitive landscape for IT talent, benefits can be the icing on an already appealing cake as far as recruiting and retaining IT talent goes. Houston-based Transocean, an oil and gas drilling company, made the 2015 ComputerWorld list in part because, among other benefits, they offer the first 5 percent of an employee's salary saved in a 401(k) account and provide a 200 percent employer match. California-based Autodesk, a maker of CAD software, which also made the 2015 midsize employer list, provides employees with a six-week sabbatical for every four years of work.
So what makes an organization a best place to work in IT? It is not generally one thing or another that will make your department stand out, but a commingling of great benefits, continuous access to training, an inclusive culture and an organizational mission that prioritizes innovation. The need for IT talent will only increase as technology continues to rapidly evolve, so to recruit and retain the best and brightest organizations should make a concerted effort to make their IT department into a place that is considered a best place to work.
To read more about the companies who made ComputerWorld's 2016 Best Places to Work in IT, visit: http://www.computerworld.com/category/bestplaces2016/