Did you know that today is National Employee Appreciation Day? It’s a day for companies to thank and recognize their employees for their hard work throughout the year. In honor of this, we wanted to know what MSP business owners could do to appreciate their techs and reduce their turnover rate. We all know that employee turnover is a business killer in the IT industry, but why is that? Bottom line: there’s a shortage of IT talent and a widening skills gap.  

In fact, there are about 593,500 IT jobs in the United States that have remained open for 90 days or longer. That equates to 50,000,000 days of lost IT productivity each quarter! So, what can be done about this? We turned to Spiceworks, a community of online IT professionals, to ask: What is one thing your boss could do to make your job more enjoyable? The influx of responses was astounding! After scanning the 64 (and counting) comments for common themes, we picked these eight ways to cut down on employee churn!

1. Increase Pay and Have an IT Budget

In Dice Tech's 2016 Salary Survey, out of 39 percent of tech pros that expressed interest in changing employers this year, 65 percent listed higher compensation as their reason. This was also echoed in our Spiceworks thread. Although increasing salaries isn't always possible, it's worth understanding that pay level is a leading contributor for technician turnover rate. In lieu of pay raises as an option, respondents also listed more responsibility, shorter commutes, and better working conditions as push factors. As you'll see in the remainder of the list, this is pretty consistent with what we heard from Spiceworks participants. Even if you can't afford to increase pay, the rest of these items can definitely help improve morale.

2. Offer Telework as an Option

"Work from home one or two days a week would be awesome. I actually get more done remotely when it is non-hands on work, which is 95% of my tasks."

This response came up a few times in the thread. Some participants were strongly in favor of being able to work from home on Fridays, for instance. Consider if you have any employees that might benefit from telecommuting. One popular reason for telework is to cut down on travel time and the expenses associated with it, such as gas and parking. Some of your staff may live over an hour away, and commuting in each day is costly and time-consuming. Do they have families they need to be home to take care of? When you show employees that you care about their work-life balance and offer more flexible work hours and/or options, they'll feel like their needs are being listened to. In effect, they'll likely become more loyal towards your company. As long as your staff is able to do their job remotely and productivity doesn't suffer, you should think about approving telework.

3. Stop Micromanaging 

"Don't micromanage without a good reason. If you feel you need to micromanage, then the employee may need more training. If that's not the case, go find something to do. Micromanaging just screams 'hey, I don't trust you to do your job.'"

Have you empowered your staff enough to let them own their projects? Micromanagement is a poor management style in any industry, and IT is no exception. Remember that skilled employees take pride in the work they do. The way technicians become skilled leaders is by being able to test out their strengths and learn from their mistakes. You do want them to learn and improve, right? That brings us to our next point...

4. Invest in Technician Training to Help Them Grow

"I would love to learn more than password resets and printer drivers."

"Definitely have more interesting work instead of being a mushroom that is told to just do its job and given no scope to develop."

"Encourage training by allowing time off with pay to attend classes or allow dedicated time while at work to take online courses."

These three separate responses indicate that your techs want to be challenged to take on higher-value work. By sending them to get certifications or paying for their training, you'll send the message that you care about their growth within the company. They're not just your worker bees looking to check off items on a task list. The more you lift your employees up, the less they'll feel replaceable, and the less likely they'll be to leave you. 

I get it, though. Sometimes the boring L1 tasks just have to get done, and they can eat up an entire work day. It's hard to advance your tech talent when you only have so many hours in the day and tickets for password resets keep popping up. One solution is offloading these lower level jobs to a smart-sourced team of certified technicians that acts as an extension to your own in-house operation. For example, when you leverage Continuum’s 24x7x365 IT Help Desk, your technicians are enabled to focus on work with higher profitability, develop more meaningful relationships with clients, and extend their own skillset. Also, the services are fully white-labeled, so your clients think one of your employees is helping them resolve their issues when a tech answers the call in your company's name! 

5. Equip Techs with the Right Tools

"Allow us to get the hardware we need instead of balking at the prices and going with bare minimums. Bare minimums mean no room to expand or grow in the future."

This is yet another instance of business owners needing to invest in their techs. Do your employees have everything they need to do their job well and efficiently? I understand that certain expenses just aren't in the budget (hopefully you have one!), but techs will appreciate bosses who are receptive to their needs. Don't just dismiss employees when they make requests. Follow up and ask them which tools will help them be more successful and how. Then, listen to their rationale to see if it makes sense for your business to spend the extra amount. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

6. Be Mindful of Tech Time and Bandwidth

"Don't give me 1 super urgent top priority job to do, leave your section of it [sitting] on your desk waiting to be looked at for 3 weeks, then have the cheek to find a fault in what I've done and insist I fix it immediately because the system should [have] gone live last week."

"[L]earn to say No instead of telling users 'Yeah, sure we can send a rocket to Jupiter by next Tuesday!' when they ask for things that are technically unfeasible." 

Ideally, you’re leveraging our help desk solution so your techs don't feel as overwhelmed and burdened by end user demands. Still, their time is precious. Even if they're using a Network Operations Center (NOC), which is different from a help desk, and are able to save time resolving issues often before the end user is any the wiser, you have to understand that they can't always drop everything they're working on without advance notice. 

7. Offer Work Perks

"Not much honestly, kinda crazy to say shes does a lot for us already. I mean if we could have like some healthy snacks and beverages available at all times that would be pretty nice."

"[O]ne simple purchase would change my whole work day, and hopefully that of others. A ping-pong table."

Sometimes, the simplest measures can go the longest way. Take it from me! One of the reasons I love coming to work every day is perks like freshly popped popcorn, Pizza Thursday lunches, and recreational ping-pong and cornhole equipment for when you just need to step aside for a minute. Remember that for many of your employees, the office is their home away from home. They're spending at least 50 hours/week there, so what can you do to make it more inviting? I highly recommend monthly team lunches to boost morale. They'll provide the opportunity for you to get to know your staff on a personal level and will encourage employees to get to know one another. This socialization will pay off when they're dealing with clients directly!

8. Reward Employee Efforts

"We have a point system that punishes late, no shows, other offenses, but we don't have an equal and opposite reward point system, that would be good."

We actually listed rewards as one of the 5 non-monetary compensation strategies you should be using. Maybe you don't have it in the budget to increase everyone's salaries, but I'm sure you could spare gift-cards or tickets to a sporting event. When an employee goes above and beyond and scores a big win for the company, recognize their efforts! One thing we do at our quarterly meetings is honor an employee from each department that excelled and pay tribute with a certificate and Amazon gift card. When employers give back to their employees, those employees tend to give back to the company.

Are you looking for increased productivity and better alignment with your business goals? Make your staff feel special because after all, you can't do it without them. Happy Employee Appreciation Day!

Optimize efficiency and give your techs a break!