"Love" your top IT staff or lose them

The IT 'war for talent' has been over-exaggerated but CIOs still need to show a little "love" towards their best performing staff or lose them to the competition, according to UK IT chiefs.

The IT 'war for talent' has been over-exaggerated but CIOs still need to show a little "love" towards their best performing staff or lose them to the competition, according to UK IT chiefs.

Researchers claimed last week that escalating IT "talent wars" are forcing employers to become more creative with staff retention policies, offering perks such as additional holidays and professional training to stop their best techies being poached.

The 12 IT chiefs on ZDNet Australia sister site silicon.com's CIO Jury user panel largely disagreed that there are staff retention problems -- just three said it is difficult to hold on to the top-performing workers.

Andrew Leaning, group IT director at publisher Huveaux, said recruitment and retention problems come from poor leadership by managers.

You have to 'love' your star performers...or someone else will.

Yawar Murad, CIO, GE Life

He said: "So-called talent wars are trumped up by those that aren't thinking long term, pay dirt and then complain when they lose staff. Train your team, give them stretch assignments and interesting projects, work with them to develop and they'll stay. Also, if we as IT leaders are doing our job correctly we shouldn't be worried when we do lose talent to elsewhere as we'll have nurtured other stars coming up through the ranks."

Yawar Murad, CIO at GE Life, warned that IT bosses who only pay lip service to developing their team will quickly lose credibility among their staff "with dire results".

He said: "You have to 'love' your star performers, make them feel appreciated -- or someone else will. A formal process for recognising top talent, and putting effective development plans in place is a vital retention tool."

For some it is recruitment rather than retention that is the issue. One IT director, who did not wish to be named, said: "The problem for us is being able to find and afford top-class candidates for the few vacancies that come up. Recruiting right-fit people is hard work."

Some industries and organisations are also more attractive to work for in the first place and Rory O'Boyle, head of IT at the Football Association, said: "Perhaps writing football systems in C# and .Net is a perk in itself."

But retaining IT staff is an issue for those in the public sector. Peter Ryder, head of ICT at Preston City Council, said: "Even more so in local government where the opportunity for giving perks and benefits can be very limited."

Paul Broome, IT director at 192.com, said some IT staff can also be tempted to leave "perfectly good jobs" for whatever the latest and most-hyped fad happens to be.

"We can't get or keep ColdFusion developers for love nor money as the whole world goes through another technology catwalk. All staff want to be Java, .Net, PHP experienced -- continue with any other structure at your peril."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi
Chris Broad, head of IT, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Paul Broome, IT director, 192.com
Linda Chandler, IT director, London Development Agency
Andrew Leaning, group IT director, Huveaux
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Vans
David Lister, CIO, Reuters
Yawar Murad, CIO, GE Life
Rory O'Boyle, head of IT, the Football Association
Jacques Rene, head of IT and projects, Airclaims
Richard Rundle, IT director, BAA
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council