From San Francisco to Tel Aviv, the IT sector is arguably the fastest-growing industry across the globe. As the potential for success increases, however, so does the competition for top-tier talent. The heavy hitters in the enterprise have recognized the importance of presenting creative, attractive incentives for new hires, and have begun offering all-star employee benefits packages to even entry-level positions.

But how can a company without unlimited resources appeal to and maintain the workforce they need?

While jobs with great pay attract talent, it is not the only reason that employees stay with an organization in the long run. Every year, $11 billion is lost as a result of employee turnover. In order to retain new hires and promote lower turnover rates, employee engagement and satisfaction is key.

Attracting candidates is only half the battle

While attracting the right candidates is not an easy task in this competitive environment, it is still only half the battle. Getting new hires up to speed and working efficiently can present its own unique set of challenges.

The problem is that while many technology companies continued to grow during the financial crisis, recruitment and investment in human capital and HR systems has remained low. Now, against a backdrop of consistently increasing workloads and economic optimism, it has become more important than ever for firms to retain their top talent. In many cases, generous salaries and share options are still not an option, so organizations have to be savvy about how they incentivize employees and communicate reward strategy.

Employee benefits play an important role within this; however, it is critical employers consider how they are communicating their benefits, and whether they have the technology in place to enable employees to take advantage of them.

This is particularly true in IT, where employees are justified in expecting internal systems to mirror the sophistication of those they are developing.

Mergers and Acquisitions

While we’re likely to see IT companies place an increased focus on recruitment over the next year, consolidation will also play a significant role in company and sector growth. With a smooth hiring process vital to the success of any merger or acquisition, companies need to ensure they have systems with the necessary capability in place before embarking on this.

The period after these changes is usually a sensitive time for employees joining the company, especially if they’ve come from a smaller firm where they may have enjoyed greater creative freedom and influence over their company’s direction. If this transition is not managed carefully, they could end up feeling undervalued and resentful – and voting with their feet.

There are some popular cultural exercises that can help mitigate this feeling and foster a better sense of collaboration between new colleagues, such as company field trips or mentor programs. However, one of the most effective ways to unite these employees is to provide them with a shared, consistent experience of their organization, and one which demonstrates its identity and values.

One area where this is often a lost opportunity is an IT company’s HR department. Having employees operating on different HR systems, with different payroll and benefits providers only prolongs distinctions and creates a sense of confusion. It is critical that organizations consider whether their HR systems are aligned with their expansion or even consolidation plans, and work to lay a strong technical foundation that is able to accommodate both their current and future workforce plans.

Of course, this step in itself requires business leaders to use foresight and imagination, which can often get pushed to the wayside when dealing with immediate business-critical issues. With many talented individuals working longer than ever, employers are increasingly facing a future with four generations of employees within their workforces.

Flexible global benefits in IT

Recent research suggests that 24 percent of organizations are currently focusing on hiring younger workers, while 23 percent are looking to rehire retired employees. Despite this plan, over a third of businesses are struggling to implement the HR systems that actually supports this strategy, with 38 percent of businesses globally admitting they find providing a flexible global benefits strategy for different demographics challenging.

The need for flexibility in HR and benefits systems is not just being driven by demographic diversity. There is a growing demand from employees, particularly millennials, to be recognized as individuals, and one of the most effective ways for employers to do this is through their approach to reward.

Instigating a flexible benefits system that allows employees to pick and choose the benefits relevant to them will help employers improve their employer value proposition, increase employee interaction with their benefits schemes and fundamentally improve their engagement with the company. With this in mind, forward-thinking organizations should be looking to install HR and benefits systems with the elasticity for expansion, and the flexibility to accommodate different ages, backgrounds and tastes.

While this is a challenge for many organizations, there are some that have met this head on and are now reaping the business rewards. For example, a huge British communications company, Engine Group, came together via an 11-way merger between businesses in diverse market sectors. While each of these companies had a distinct demographic and culture, Engine Group wanted to create a decisive company identity able to unite all employees under one banner. The company provided its employees with the same set of flexible benefits, which was a big step toward unifying them. The move reinforced a sense of choice within a community, and enabled Engine Group to easily move employees from one area of the business to another so it could make the most of their individual skillsets.

The benefits of this type of approach to HR do not end with the employees, of course. It is also practical and cost-effective for businesses, particularly those in fast-growth areas such as government IT or even healthcare IT. While most traditional systems require software code changes to accommodate different benefits, flexible software enables all of these variations to be managed through configuration, meaning that changes can be made in a matter of minutes rather than months.

Although few companies would exclusively link employee retention to efficient HR administration, the importance of speed and ease in the hiring process should not be underestimated. First impressions are critical, and will only be more so as the competition heats up. By laying strong technical foundations, companies can ensure that they provide a positive, consistent first impression to every new hire, no matter how many of these there may be and from which demographic or region.

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