How to stop your best tech staff from being poached

CIO Jury: Talent war causing retention problems

The war for talent is putting increasing pressure on organisations to look beyond salary and financial benefits to keep hold of good IT staff.

Three-quarters of's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said it is getting harder to retain good staff, supporting research earlier this week from the Chartered Management Institute that revealed pay-rises and bonuses are falling and resignations rising among tech staff.

For those in the public sector competition from the private sector is an issue. Alan Shrimpton, head of IS at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said two of his senior staff have just been poached by the private sector because they had developed specialist skills now in demand.

He said: "Whilst I can match normal salaries - we run a market factorisation scheme to make sure my staff are paid the going rate for their jobs in our area - I can't compete with private sector consultancy salaries."

But salary is just one factor in the choice to stay or leave. Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at advertising and marketing agency Creston, said paying the market rate, if possible, is the simple bit.

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He said: "You also need to invest the time in creating a team that each individual feels part of, and integral to. Nothing will help you lose good staff quicker than taking them for granted and, more specifically, restricting their development."

Steve Clarke, head of internal computing at AOL UK, agreed: "Most often my good staff are the ones who will continually look to better themselves and be challenged. If I can aid them in their efforts in a way that they see is of value, I'll retain them. An upper quartile salary helps, but it is by no means my main retention mechanism."

That means focusing on a more rounded compensation and benefits package that covers work/life balance and career development schemes. Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This approach has resulted in attracting a different type of person who has a clear career development vision which we can support and benefit from, without resorting to paying ever-increasing salaries."

Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: "It is getting harder and in the absence of being able to pay more we resort to trying to improve things like work/life balance, providing training opportunities - although this can of course be self-defeating - and we are also looking at an Investors In People programme."

But not everyone is having problems recruiting and retaining good staff. Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services at Ashford Borough Council, said: "Staff churn is remarkably low, probably thanks to the fact that our terms and conditions are very good - as are the salaries in comparison with local businesses - and being in deepest, darkest Kent means there's not that much local competition."

Ben Booth, global CTO of polling and research group Ipsos, said while it isn't getting more difficult to retain staff you still have to work hard to keep good people.

He said: "The key is to make sure that the job is interesting and challenging, and that people can see their careers developing. Salary and extras have to be up to the market rate, but unless they are way adrift pay will not be the main reason why people leave."

Ade Bajomo, head of IT strategy and systems at Pearl Life, agreed: "Ineffective and unsustainable engagement of staff is probably the real underlying issue, as competent staff who are disengaged will always leave, regardless of the remuneration climate."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Ade Bajomo, head of IT strategy and systems, Pearl Life
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Ben Booth, global CTO, Ipsos
Steve Clarke, head of internal computing, AOL UK
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro UK
Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Myron Hrycyk, CIO, NYK Logistics UK
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis
Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services, Ashford Borough Council
Alan Shrimpton, head of IS, Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston

Want to be part of's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT departments? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at