(Note: This is the final part of a three-part series)

Hiring for data professionals has become a waiting game for many organizations. Demand far exceeds supply, and the time-to-hire for data analysts and data scientists has stretched from weeks to months in many cases.

Recent hiring studies project more of the same for 2016 – maybe even worse. Which makes the job of retention all the more important as we approach the New Year.

“The best recruiting strategy starts with retention,” stresses John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology. “It does no good to put all this attention on bringing people in to fill open slots you have if you’re letting existing employees go out the back door.”

Certain items are a given to help retain your data pros – competitive salary; attractive benefits packages; rewarding technology work; and a sense of contribution. But managers often neglect one of the most important elements in a successful retention strategy – involving the employee in their own career plan.

“Make time one-on-one with each of your people -- understanding what their greatest satisfaction is; what their career goals are; the training that they want to further develop their skills -- all of those things are really important,” Reed explains.

Also, don’t assume you are paying competitive wages; make sure of it. The Robert Half Technology 2016 IT Salary Study, released this month, reveals that pay rates are rising for top data pros faster than just about any other IT related job. Two of the top three fastest rising pay rates go to data pros.

“Do an assessment of your compensation packages,” Reed advises. “Male sure you are staying current, do your research, you want to be at least paying market rate. Do your analysis, talk to experts, use salary guides, and then look for ways to get creative.”

But don’t stop there. Look for other areas where you can make the workplace more appealing and the job more attractive.

“Are there opportunities to work remotely, to have flex schedules, are there things that you can do that will create some separation from you and the marketplace that will make them want to stay there,” Reed poses.

SUBHEAD……………….

The best way to approach the growing technology skills gap is to make sure your organization has a reputation as an employer-of-choice, notes the Robert Half study. It offers eight tips on how the organization can do that.

• Pay at or above market rate for top talent. • Provide exciting and challenging assignments. • Foster a corporate culture where innovation rules, and business and technology are intertwined. • Make sure tech pros have the latest tools. • Promote flexible schedules and remote working arrangements. • Offer professional development opportunities. • Show a clear path for growth and promotion. • Listen to employees and take actions on their requests, as appropriate.

Finally, use existing staff as a top recruiting and retention tool. The odds are that your talent staff know many more individuals just like themselves.

“Establish a strong employee referral program,” the study advises. “Referrals can be the key to connecting with in-demand talent before the competition even knows these professionals are in the market.”

(Read part one of the series here.)

(Read part two of the series here.)

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