Keeping employees engaged is a struggle all businesses deal with. IT service firms have a large percentage of technical employees with unique motivators. To engage and retain technical employees, keep the following considerations in mind.
Have a Purpose
First, your organization should have a purpose that everyone—including your managers, staff, and customers—can communicate. No matter their role within the organization, all team members want to understand why—why does your company exist? Why should they contribute? And why should customers buy from your organization? It shouldn’t take a complex paragraph to state your purpose. Instead, you should express your purpose in a simple statement that describes how your company interacts with the market. In the end, it should succinctly summarize the thing every employee is helping you work toward.
You should communicate your purpose clearly and make sure it’s a part of every process in the company. Well-defined processes that align to a purpose inspire and promote teamwork. They also virtually eliminate the frustration that comes from working in an organization that has no clear objectives and purpose.
In addition to clear processes, managers must have consistent interaction with employees to ensure there is a closed feedback loop between all staff and management. Implementing one-on-ones, feedback, coaching, and regular review processes keep everyone on the same page and allow staff the opportunity to provide feedback and understand how they are individually contributing to the overall purpose.
Meet Personal Expectations
Once everyone knows where the ship is going, focus on discovering the why for each employee. This is generally summed up into two main parts.
The first part involves providing a balanced lifestyle for themselves and their families. If a job doesn’t adequately provide for their family, they will always be dissatisfied. Likewise, there will be disappointment if a job gets in the way of that lifestyle because of work commitments.
The second part is career growth. What potential does the employee see for future growth, not just in the organization but because of the organization? Making sure there are clear growth opportunities in the business will help retain employees.
To support career growth, the company must also have a plan for its own growth. What does the organizational chart look like in two years? Five years? There should be a position for the employee to aim for. What skills do they need to get there? What can the organization do to teach them those skills? Can you provide internal training or subsidize more formal education? Those questions need to be answered first.
Once you have those answers, you can use one-one-ones and coaching to encourage and support the employee’s growth. This step is important. You cannot relegate career growth to annual reviews and goals—you should collaborate with them on it throughout the year.
Provide the Right Benefits
Employees appreciate purpose and career growth, but they also stay with a company that aligns with their lifestyle goals. You should consider a few simple factors to make sure you’re contributing appropriately to their lifestyle goals. These factors include compensation, benefits, and time. Compensation should always be competitive but doesn’t necessarily need to be top-tier—health benefits can entice employees who favor stability over money. Likewise, some employees are looking for a more flexible schedule or additional vacation time to pursue hobbies, travel, etc. Some want to include variable pay like commission and bonuses that allow them to be rewarded for exceptional work or contributions.
In addition to traditional benefits, you can offer creative benefits. For example, if your techs like sports, take them to games. If they like making things, have an internal competition to code some automation. It’s becoming trendy to provide meals, fancy coffee stations, and even beer kegs in some offices. These can work, but only if most of your culture cares about those things – and they meet the preferences that your teams have.
Size Doesn’t Change Things
Goals, growth, culture, employee development and retention are important to small businesses and large. If you’re small, you may not have lots of resources, but you have time and flexibility. If you’re large and have resources to deploy, use them to connect with and support your employees so they remain engaged. Technical staff usually want to be efficient and are inquisitive. Play to those traits and you have a better chance of keeping them happy and productive.
Knowing the purpose, communicating the purpose, aligning the business processes to that purpose, and adequately providing for your employees’ physical and emotional needs will put your company in the right mindset to attract and retain the right talent for your IT services business.
Eric Anthony is the Head Operations Nerd at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @operations_nerd