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Takes more than $$ to keep techies

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Want to keep your information technology workers from bolting to an up-and-coming company? It will take more than throwing money at them.

Compensation factors are important, yes, but not as vital as other considerations when a company tries to retain their existing IT staffers, according to two officials from an employment Web site company.

Worries about being rendered obsolete because their company uses old technology and a lack of formal training top a list of reasons compiled by kforce.com. Bret A. Wangrud and Barbara T. Day, kforce.com information technology account managers, revealed those company-discovered tidbits at Tuesday's "Connect 2000" technology conference at the Salt Lake Hilton.

Among other reasons for an IT worker to seek employment elsewhere are a belief the boss does not know what the worker does, an inability to advance, feeling stuck in a maintenance mode, unkept promises, changes due to mergers, acquisitions and downsizing; a desire to "work at something I believe in" and too much travel.

Then comes a lack of money.

"What the worker is saying is, 'I'm not feeling valued,' " Day said. "Most companies can give an employee what they want. It's just a matter of identifying it and investing in ways to make it happen."

That can be a key in a state with a quarter-million IT workers in a nationally recognized hot technology market, a state suffering with a tight labor market — 3 percent in July — and companies luring workers away from their competitors.

Keeping an IT employee can be a challenge, Wangrud said, because many IT professionals want resumes bulging with impressive projects. "A true techie wants to jump around and have new challenges," he said.

However, information technology workers looking to stay with a company can improve their chances by spending money — at least $10,000 annually is needed — to improve their skills, usually for specific technical skills and applications or training in executive-level IT management, Day said.

Many high-tech workers start on a degree path but leave for employment and never return. "But if you go neck-and-neck for a job against somebody with a degree, unless you have some other significant skills, you're going to lose out nearly every time," Day said.

She also encouraged IT professionals to obtain as many technical certifications as possible because many employers are seeking niche-specific skills.

But so-called "soft" skills, often overlooked by workers, also can help a career along. They include an ability to work in a team environment, a business sense, good communication skills and enthusiasm.

Tuesday's conference, hosted by the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, attracted nearly 600 people. Other sessions during the event focused on new workplace technologies, ways to capitalize on business opportunities they present, and the impact of technology in an ever-changing business world.

E-commerce, Wangrud said, "will make the Industrial Revolution look like an afternoon picnic."


E-MAIL: bwallace@desnews.com