IT directors must look to retain key staff as jobs market shows signs of recovery

Improved packages will be needed to ensure you hang on to vital skills

Improved packages will be needed to ensure you hang on to vital skills.

The upturn in the jobs market revealed by the latest SSL/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends should encourage IT directors to consider their strategies to retain existing staff and attract new employees.

Peter Skyte, national secretary of the IT Professionals' Association, part of the Amicus union, said, "There is definitely an upturn in demand for IT skills, and although no one believes we are going to return to the levels seen before the internet bubble burst, the companies I have been dealing with are certainly more aware of the competition for skills.

"Even during the boom there was no serious effort to address a skills shortage, and although this may have been less important for firms when they started to need less staff, the same problems are set to re-emerge."

Skyte said that more perks and improved packages would have to be offered to existing staff, as well as to new recruits, and he said there was building pressure on firms to offer more money too.

"Surveys tend to be a snapshot of what is already occurring, and I would not be surprised to see bigger increases in salaries than what the SSL Survey found, as a result of extra business confidence in coming months," said Skyte.

Paul Smith, director at recruitment agency Harvey Nash, said, "Firms will have to be careful to retain the skills they have as there could be a shortage of people as the market steadily improves, but I cannot see any return to the days of the dotcom bubble."

Smith said companies must take account of the fact that some staff have not had meaningful pay increases for up to three years. For organisations where extra money is not an immediate option, changing benefits packages to offer training and perks might help retain skilled workers.

Smith said an employee would never stay with an organisation simply because of a salary increase - in a rising jobs market, they know they could get bigger increases by moving.

He said research by Harvey Nash had shown that half of staff stay at a company because of things such as the people they work with, good working environments and the availability of good kit and systems. "If there is a bad working environment, people will not work there for any package," said Smith.

Cathy Walsh, managing director of recruitment agency the Triangle Partnership, said, "People talk of the pendulum swing effect in the jobs market but the situation now seems to be one of stability.

"To retain staff, companies must make sure they can present them with a future vision and firm plans. Employees will want personal development more than ever if they are to stay, and the 'what can I put in, and what can I get out?' attitude among staff is a perfectly reasonable one.

"In recent times so many people have been made redundant that job stability has become a priority. And job content is all part of the thought process for employees considering their options, as salary becomes less important compared to previous times.

"I think people have got a much more realistic and sensible view about what the market is, so serious personal development plans are more important than the share options that were demanded during the dotcom era."

Walsh said that although staff were in a better position to move, the industry needed a gradual, steady recovery, not another unsustainable boom.

CW/SSL Survey results >>

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