Retaining Great Employees: It’s Not About the Money


Written by Mansur Hasib

As IT managers and leaders, it is our job to foster the professional growth of everyone who works on our team. If we do not do this we are failing as leaders.

I have had many discussions on the topic of training with both employees and managers. Many IT managers are afraid that certifications will make their employees more marketable and allow them to find better opportunities. Employees are frustrated that their managers do not allow them to grow and so eventually they leave to find better opportunities to learn and to grow professionally.

When I was negotiating my budget as a CIO, I asked for and received $2,000 per year for every employee that could only be used for travel or training. It required the consultation of supervisors and could be used for a conference or even a certification. Since some training is more expensive, employees were allowed to trade and give someone their training dollars for one year so they could get it back from the recipient in a subsequent year. At times I was able to recruit someone simply because I had this guaranteed annual training benefit.


This arrangement was an amazing motivator for the team. It kept the skills of my staff growing and they were able to sharpen their thinking, discuss issues with peers in other institutions, and apply the knowledge toward innovation within our organization. In nearly 10 years, no one left the organization — they were so happy with the environment, their professional growth, and the mutual support they received from each other that the thought of looking around never entered their minds.

I could never have foreseen future events, but in late 2009 and early 2010, when our organization was abolished during very tough economic conditions, every member of my team found a new job as a result of their up-to-date skills, certifications, discipline, and leadership skills.
As IT professionals, our job isn’t to hold someone back. If someone’s professional growth can only be achieved outside our organization, we need to be willing to facilitate that. There should be open dialogue between us and our employees and if they are planning a transition outside the organization, they should feel free to let us know without fear of retribution. That way we can plan for smooth succession so it does not hurt the organization.

Employees want to feel happy to come to work. If we spend more time making sure our employees are happy, we will get amazing amounts of productivity out of them. We will have their unwavering loyalty and they will frequently turn down higher financial rewards in order to remain in the organization where they can be happy and creative.

As for compensation — we need to remember that there are two types of compensation at our disposal: monetary and non-monetary. We have a limited supply of monetary compensation. Monetary compensation needs to be fair, reasonable, and in line with what the organization can afford and in line with what other, similar organizations are paying. Performance evaluations need to be accurate, fair, and mutually agreed upon, and outstanding performance needs to be rewarded with better pay increases.

As for non-monetary rewards, we have an unlimited supply of those. So we need to be generous with them and we need to look for opportunities to give them away with sincerity and gratitude. A new project, ability to implement an original idea, a public recognition of a new idea, a celebratory luncheon, an opportunity to present at a conference or in front of organizational leaders — these are all examples of non-monetary rewards that motivate people. Being stingy with «thank you» notes, commendation letters, or congratulatory handshakes does us no good. Generosity with these non-monetary rewards will unleash creativity and help with employee retention.

IT people are very creative. Creative people love it when their creativity is appreciated. The more they are appreciated, the more they will create. If you want to unleash creativity within your organization, be creative with your non-monetary rewards. I was amazed at the results I got.

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