The importance of IT staff retention – and how to do it



For any successful business, one of the most important teams may be operating behind-the-scenes: the IT department. In celebration of IT Professionals Day, we’re taking a closer look at how businesses can engage and retain their best IT talent in today’s competitive job market. 

Workplace burnout among IT teams

The GoTo 2023 IT Priorities Report found that 65% of organizations have seen an increase in IT workload over the past year, which shows us two things: just how vital IT professionals are, and just how much work and possible burnout they are experiencing. 

What’s behind the increased workload for IT workers? Specific challenges that IT staff face can include:

  • Solving issues remotely/off-site versus being in person to troubleshoot hardware or software issues — with one survey finding that over 50% of help desk tickets require “support at a distance”
  • Supporting personal devices like smartphones, and ensuring they meet company security standards
  • Internet connectivity issues with home or remote workspaces
  • Securing remote access to company applications or data
  • Increased training to keep pace with developments in security protocols, new software, and more
  • An “always on” work culture where more workers might have questions or issues for IT on evening and weekends
  • Decreased IT team size due to the Great Resignation

This increased workload can lead to employee burnout, and have detrimental effects at a time when maintaining efficient and effective technology solutions are more important to business success than ever.

Why IT retention matters

It’s not just about burnout: businesses large and small are recognizing the need to do more to engage with and retain their IT talent. IT and tech worker turnover is well over 12%, and even close to 20% by some measures. 

A number of IT subsectors are in particular demand, including cybersecurity, data analytics, AI and machine learning, making it increasingly challenging to find qualified candidates to fill open positions. The growth of remote and hybrid work also means that many of the best IT talent can consider new working opportunities regardless of where they live, increasing the breadth of competition hiring companies face.

Turnover among your IT team can lead to loss of institutional knowledge, decreased productivity, burnout for your remaining staff, and increased costs for recruitment and training of new employees. It’s estimated that IT issues cost 49% of employees between one to five hours per week of productivity. It can even negatively affect your customers, who might feel the impact of lacking tech support when ordering a product or contacting customer service. Without the right IT staffing, business can grind to a halt. 

On the flip side, some studies show that having an engaged IT workforce can contribute to 20% higher profitability overall. The confluence of burnout, high demand for tech talent, and the costs associated with turnover all point to a major issue businesses need to tackle: creating a strategy to retain outstanding IT talent.

How to engage and retain top IT talent

There are a number of best practices for retaining talented employees on any team, such as listening to and acting on employee feedback, improving workplace culture, and increasing salaries and wages. But when it comes to retaining IT talent specifically, you’ll need to go the extra mile given their particular skills and needs, to ensure they feel fulfilled in their roles.

  • Provide professional development and training on new technologies, based on feedback from IT on what they most want and need to develop their skillsets. In a recent survey, 86% of HR managers said that providing ongoing training increases employee retention.
  • Provide additional training in “soft skills” beyond the latest technological innovations, which can help employees with overall job effectiveness and demonstrate long-term investment in their career.
  • Maintain clear working hours and boundaries for IT staff in a world where many may be working remotely or in time zones outside the core company “working hours”.
  • Create a dialogue with your IT professionals. Understand what their pain points are, and when there are more systemic issues arising around IT at the workplace.
  • Evaluate your cloud service providers and other vendors to determine opportunities to streamline or consolidate your tech stack to minimize IT’s workload. Create and update technological systems that improve workflow efficiency and minimize shadow IT and technical debt, two issues that can create larger problems for IT teams in the future.
  • Foster connections between your employees and your IT teams. It’s important to remember the people behind the screens resolving your IT issues, especially in the world of hybrid work.

Business leaders who are thoughtful about supporting and growing their IT staff are best positioned to retain their top talent, with positive impacts for both their company culture and the company bottom line. 

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