With the technology industry in turmoil, it is harder for young companies to retain skilled programmers, developers and database administrators.
A recent study by professors at the University of Virginia and the University of Houston offers some guidance to firms worried about information-technology worker defections, a problem even before the current upheaval in technology stocks.
In surveying 10 firms with IT work forces ranging from 70 to 24,000 employees, researchers found that salaries, which continue to increase at a 20% annual clip, serve only to get workers in the door. To keep IT employees, companies must offer personalized career development programs and workplace enhancements, the researchers said.
Employers should consider two distinct career tracks for IT workers, said R. Ryan Nelson of the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. Besides the traditional management route, employers should provide a "technical expert path" with salary and prestige equivalents to management positions. And employers must clearly articulate the steps IT workers should take to advance on either path.
Nelson and the report's coauthor, Peter A. Todd of the University of Houston's College of Business Administration, found that career development issues were of top importance to IT workers in the first three years of employment. In years three through five, IT workers cared most about their work environment and the availability of telecommuting, flextime and other nonstandard work arrangements.
Start-ups that offer IT workers opportunities to learn new skills and quickly advance can compete with established firms, Nelson said. He noted that salaries must be competitive and stock options should be viewed only as incentives.