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It’s a well-known fact that the IT talent pool is ever-shrinking. In fact, just last year in Gartner’s 2016 CIO report, talent became recognized globally as the “single biggest issue” preventing CIOs from achieving their objectives.

The story does not appear to be looking much better as we head into 2017.

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According to Deloitte’s 2016–2017 global CIO survey, while 45 percent of CIOs feel that engaging, motivating and acquiring top talent is critical for success, many IT leaders can’t find the right individuals with the right talents to join their organization. As a result, innovation gets pushed to the backburner and mediocrity in an IT organization becomes the norm.

Therefore, for those organizations that are able to find and attract top talent, retaining these professionals becomes of critical importance. After all, in a job market where IT jobs are a dime a dozen and the talent pool is scarce, it’s an employee’s market for the taking.

So, how can you as an IT leader retain your leading practitioners and subject matter experts? It’s simple: be the kind of leader who puts his or her employees first. Let’s take a look at three ways in which you can hone your leadership style:

  1. Invest in Your Talent: There is no greater way to keep your team engaged with the organization than to invest in their talents. With the technology landscape moving at a breakneck pace, the skill sets of today quickly become obsolete tomorrow. So, focus on honing and nurturing your team’s talents. For instance, allocate a portion of your budget to sending your team to conferences; encourage them to go for that technical certification; and ensure that they are up-to-date in their practice area by passing exams. Allow your professionals the breathing time needed to stretch their minds and sharpen their technical acumen.

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  1. Hone Your Soft Skills: Today’s IT professionals face mounting pressure to possess not only hard, but soft skills as well. As IT experts become increasingly customer-facing, they must feel just as comfortable communicating, problem solving and presenting, as they do troubleshooting, implementing and deploying. So, lead by example. As you hone your soft skills, support your employees in doing the same. This will not only better prepare them for the world beyond the cubicle, but it will also strengthen your communication with your employees as well.
  1. Set SMART Goals: Since your employees have a number of choices when it comes to their employment, ensure you are helping them reach set objectives regularly. Whether they are looking to become CCNA certified this quarter or become more well-versed in Office 365 migrations, make time to help them hit their goals. By using the SMART goal-setting method and outlining a blueprint for achieving these pursuits, you create an environment of support and growth.

Now’s the time to ask yourself… what will you do differently in 2017 to retain your top talent?