Written By: Tor Constantino
"Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one someday." - Bill Gates
IT pros rule the roost, and we're all the better for it. But are we being reviewed, promoted and compensated as we'd like?
Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ quote captures a bit of the dilemma faced by IT professionals in a world where business and IT have merged. How should hard-working IT pros be reviewed? By coding ability? By their company's social media hits? By one's social skills in a work environment where the best code developers are often left alone for hours at a time?
Accelerated tech trends help to get work done, from both productivity and organizational points of view. To achieve that means that these highly trained and dedicated IT workers must fully leverage and integrate those technologies within the workplace. But how should IT managers judge and rate IT pros, and how can they retain their top performers?
Identify and Retain
For IT managers, the ultimate goal is to identify and retain IT pros with the skills and will to keep up with an ever-changing business sector, while integrating the latest IT advances. And once you have your IT employee on board, it's important to keep the pay equal to the increasing demands of the job. Computerworld's Salary Survey 2012 showed that salaries and total compensation for IT pros is creeping up, but in tiny increments: 56 percent of of the 4,337 respondents reported getting a raise in 2012 (9 percent reported getting a pay cut). Of those who received raises, well, they didn't get much – according to Computerworld, average salaries increased 2.1 percent, and average total compensation rose by just 1.8 percent.
Are Performance Reviews Still the Answer?
For years, company executives have used six-month and 12-month performance reviews as a mainstream measuring stick for staff performance and possible raises. As a tool for resource management, performance reviews help leaders identify key performers, up-and-comers, areas for development, potential morale issues and any organizational misalignments.
Here are some insights into how IT managers are evaluating their employees in the new IT economy:
Move it to a two-way, continuing evaluation: Smart IT managers know that it's the team that wins, not the sole performer. So in aligning team goals, the IT manager makes certain his team is all on the same page, and that they work with him continually for feedback and measurement. Weekly team meetings help, and some managers have implemented monthly one-on-ones that enable communication to the employee and back to the manager.
Skip the 6 and 12: Why wait until six or 12 months to conduct a performance review? Those time frames are from earlier work eras that don't translate to fast-paced IT and Web environments. IT managers who work closely with their team will quickly see results from top performers, and some have the leeway to give quick promotions or raises as required.
Skip the subjectivity: The new-look appraisal process steers clear of subjective gripes, personality complaints and close-ended questioning, an approach perceived as belittling, counterproductive and possibly contributing to an employee leaving the organization.
Motivate: Motivate the employee with goals and raise levels for future efforts. Use measurable self-evaluation charts for the employee. Provide a platform for suggestions and discussions about the employee's growth and job satisfaction. A successful performance review should motivate the employee, not discourage him.
Retaining Good IT Pros
A recent study by Harris Interactive and the American Psychological Association showed that about 60 percent of U.S. employees (not just IT employees, it should be noted) said they stay with their current employer because they enjoy the work they do. This trumped other variables such as health benefits or salary.
The best IT managers realize that the entire performance review process can be positively reinforced by:
- Effective two-way communication
- Consistent feedback and direction
- A consultative approach to problem-solving
- Mutually agreed upon skill development
- Opportunity for advancement and promotion
- Unambiguous, clearly-defined performance expectations and metrics
Employing these techniques not only positively influences the performance review process, but it makes for a more satisfactory work environment overall, as well. The businesses that successfully manage the human element of the IT equation will be best positioned for future success.
Why Good IT Pros Leave
No great organization can remain great if it can't train and retain great IT employees. Given Moore’s Law and technology's rate of change, the IT sector tends to be more susceptible to employee attrition than other fields.
ITManagerDaily.com featured the leading reasons IT professionals leave their jobs. The top three reasons were the desire for a new challenge (21 percent), pursuit of a higher salary (12 percent) and general job dissatisfaction (10 percent). It’s worth noting that each of those reasons can be mitigated in some degree by IT supervisors who recognize the need to slow IT employee turnover.
It's never a good business strategy to identify and train high-potential individuals, only to have that hard-fought intellectual investment walk out the door and use their newly acquired IT knowledge for a competitor. Brain drain is a real threat under this shifting paradigm. No business wants to be known as the technology-training “farm club” for a competing company.
Organizations that minimize the importance of these risk their own future. If they don't, the organization risks losing its best employees.
About the Author: Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author/speaker, marathon runner and current PR guy who lives near Washington, DC with his wife and kids. He also has an MBA degree and blogs regularly at http://www.thedailyretort.com