Talent Retention and Development Strategies for the Channel

Finding the right-fit employee is hard enough for most organizations ─ but keeping them requires a lot more effort. In today’s market, companies need to be more strategic when it comes to retaining their most promising employees and quicker to pull the trigger on those who simply don’t make the cut.

IT channel companies typically face more difficult HR challenges than their entrepreneurial counterparts in other industries. A continuing shortage of qualified technical professionals is to blame for much of that stress, especially when solution providers find themselves competing with larger organizations for quality talent. Another challenge is that many IT services business owners have a greater passion for the tech than they do for organizational development. Focus is everything and, if your head isn’t entirely in the game, hiring and retention challenges can become much more difficult to overcome.  

Those challenges can be overwhelming to those unfamiliar with HR policies and best practices. The Talent Retention and Development Strategies session at ChannelCon 2015 included a panel of IT and employee development professionals familiar with the obstacles and policy needs of channel businesses. Emceed by Aaron Acker, Senior Director of Business Development for Worth Ave. Group, the discussion covered virtually every part of an IT business’ employment lifecycle, from developing a job description to training and incentive programs.  

Tricia Barbier of SmartSource Inc. started out by pointing out the value of a solid recruiting plan. “By putting the right person in the right role, you make job satisfaction and retention much easier. Every business should develop accurate job descriptions and update them as responsibilities change. Barbier also advised the audience to build a corporate “story” that highlights why prospective employees would be interested in working for their company.    

“Be sure to read what you’re posting and review what those inside the organization are writing about job openings,” said Gordon Pelosse, Vice President of Global Support Delivery, Canada at Hewlett Packard. “Make sure the description accurately conveys the job opportunity and ensure it puts the community in a good light. Avoid company acronyms and references, which can be exclusionary.”

Convert New Hires into Valued Employees

Once a candidate accepts your job offer, the real work kicks in. There’s onboarding and training, each requiring careful guidance from the right people in the organization. “The mentoring process is extremely important. This is often harder for small companies, which often have little time and fewer resources to spare,” said Tracy Pound, Managing Director of MaximITy.

The key thing to remember is that mentoring is more than just a long-term training exercise. When done well, it becomes part of the corporate culture where more experienced professionals share advice and best practices and, most importantly, listen to concerns and help vet new ideas.   

The hiring and employee training processes never end with most businesses, so the people who manage and improve these programs have to keep current on the latest trends and work rules. No IT services business can afford to take shortcuts here. “It’s about keeping employees current and keeping them learning. Everything is evolving and you and your team need to keep renewing programs and skills,” suggested Garry Tackett, Vice President of Learning and Employment Services for CareerBuilder.

Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@getchanneled.com.