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Loyalty, Not Perks, Helps Retain Employees

TORONTO -- Managers can encourage employee loyalty by helping to build careers instead of offering the most money and the best perks.

That was the conclusion made by a panel of experts at a Comdex 2000 seminar on how to combat the IT skills shortage.

Finding the right IT professional can be tough, said Robert Beauchemin, CEO of CNC Global, noting that employers want the whole package -- appropriate technical skills, a good work ethic and the ability to communicate and work as a team member.

Part of the IT personnel shortage, he said, is due to the lack of university and college programs teaching those skills. He did note, however, that Queen's University and the University of Waterloo are two Canadian exceptions.

Beauchemin said employers must avoid hiring people who are looking for money and seek out candidates who express passion and loyalty.

So how do you keep employees?

Money, opportunities for advancement and more challenging work are the three most common reasons why IT professionals leave their jobs, said Julie Kaufman, IDC Canada manager of skills research.

Kaufman also pointed out there is an exodus of employees to dot-com companies. Attracted by profit-sharing opportunities, they are willing to work hard and take risks if it means seeing bigger results sooner, she said.

But Declan French, CEO of Thinkpath.com, an IT recruiter and technical trainer, said most employees are actually approaching jobs from a career-strengthening perspective. "Most candidates . . . are thinking, 'What's this going to look like on my resume two to three years from now?'" he said.

According to French, an employer should provide new employees a mentor as well as give the more seasoned employees continual training, even if it's not for an upcoming project.

He added that only a small percentage of companies actually lose people to higher-paying jobs after investing in employee training.

French also suggested employers maintain a strong corporate culture by creating an environment comprised of "friendly, like-minded people . . . with open communication and honesty," so employees can give feedback and remain informed about the company. An approachable boss is often higher on the list of why employees remain at a company than dollars or perks, he said. Employers can also formulate a work/life balance policy, he said.

However, a company must also offer reasonably competitive perks. "If (the employee) is a hockey fan, give him a whack of tickets," said French.

The chief mission of a company must be to develop loyalty by accommodating the employee, said Nick Foster, president of Clarity.Calm Consulting, an independent consulting firm. "Mercenary management . . . when managers say, 'We'll just offer a lot of money and stock options and that'll get them'" doesn't work because those same employees will be likely to move on once they get better offers, he said.

"Get over the money demand," said Foster. "Build their careers, invest in them. . . . Think of it as doing the right thing for the employee."

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Published at 20:02

11 March 2011

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