3 steps to job security - for you and your staff

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All it takes is one new pet project involving a somewhat unfamiliar technology to make even the most skilled and brilliant IT team members weak in the knees. In today's fast-moving tech world, job security can seem awfully fleeting for IT teams.

But there are measures you can take up front to ensure you and your team are able to stay the course, excel and solidify job security and your position as the indispensable heroes that you know you truly are.

Step 1: Focus on your team's strengths collectively and individually

Thirty-year HR veteran Daken Tanner, and vice president of human resources with College Services, sums it up this way: “We will figure out how to keep a really strong performer instead of getting a new [employee].” But, says Tanner, the strong performer has to know that he or she is strong – a key player. The employee has to be “aware of what they do every day and how it makes an impact.”

It's confidence in a job well done that needs to be shared up and down the corporate pipeline when it comes to job security. Because when there are dozens or even thousands of employees at a company, keeping decision-makers focused on the contributions of a single team or team member can require a solid, internal PR campaign. It starts with the following:

  • Develop a highlights list of positive and quantifiable results that you (or your team) were responsible for.
  • Regularly report your activity, keeping the positive outcomes top-of-mind among upper management. If everything an employee touches is fabulous, Daken Tanner will look at what he calls “transferrable skills” even if that person's education level or certification is not an exact fit for a task or a promotion. “Leadership gets creative on how we can find a place for someone if the person brings enough value to the position,” Tanner explains.
  • Show your willingness to be innovative and try things outside of your comfort zone. Be an encouraging and constructive coach with your team as you navigate obstacles and troubleshoot problems.
  • Own your weaknesses. What is your team lacking, both individually and collectively? Be able to learn from mistakes along the way. Share what you learn and what your team improvement goals are. Support additional training for everyone.

Step 2: Ensure you exhibit a cultural fit

We spend almost as much time with our coworkers as we do with our families, which makes it awkward for everyone when a worker – or even whole team – doesn't mesh with the rest of the organization.

This doesn't mean that everyone should be the same. Diversity, after all, is part of what makes our work lives fantastic. But it does mean that a little connecting goes a long way when it comes to job security.

The following tactics can help ensure your team carves its own unique place in the company:

  • Evaluate how well your team fits within its own boundaries. Do team members generally get along with one another? Do they enjoy the work relationships they have?
  • Make a point of participating in office team activities. In addition to being a great way to break the ice and build relationships, they're also a fantastic way to find out what other teams are working on and determine ways your own team can help.
  • Is your work closely aligned with a department on a different floor? See if your group can move closer or set up an informal get-to-know-each-other meeting.
  • Use casual opportunities as a chance to connect, like in the break room or at a company picnic or other event.
  • Engage beyond “shop talk.” Teams don't have to go to happy hour together, but spending a few minutes discussing a little league game over lunch can help ensure names and faces are immediately recognizable.
  • Take on new projects and remain flexible. A coworker once told me about a team she was on that refused a project but never said why (she later found out it was because the rest of the team didn't agree with the direction the company was going with project). Six months later, that same team noticed more of the projects that they should have been working on were being farmed out to contractors instead. Lesson learned? Be flexible and willing to understand a project – even if you don't agree with it from the start. And if a project is bad, speak up proactively and positively and let your input help steer it in the right direction instead.

Step 3: Become more relevant

Thanks to the speed at which technology moves, it can be difficult for tech teams to feel like they're staying up-to-date and relevant on every skill. If resources are slim, do you learn more about the Apple Watch or choose the latest Android phone instead?

Why choose? The following tips can help your team remain relevant and ensure job security, even when time and manpower aren't on your side:

  • Start with what you have by assessing your current skills. A simple chart with checkboxes handed to each person on the team can act as their individual scorecard. Find a spot where you or the team could use a refresher? Take a class – maybe even together.
  • Take the team approach to what's on the horizon. Not everyone on the team has to know every new technology or what the next great thing will be. So assign each team member a beat and have him or her become an expert in that one discipline or device-try these tips for delegating. Team members can share what they learn with the group on a regular and rotating basis.
  • Get certified, but know your limits. While it would be great if each member of a team could be certified in everything, extenuating factors may make it next to impossible. So take the next best option: select the certifications that seem most important and have individual team members become certified.
  • Inquire within. Remember those connections you made in step 2? Ask them about projects they're working on – and dive in to help. You may discover the tech resource most needed by the company isn't what you originally thought at all.
  • Know the limits of your resources and express this information openly and honestly. Admitting that you need to learn may be the ticket to more education, staff adjustments or shuffled priorities, while also keeping your team from taking on projects they can't fulfill.

No employer really wants to replace dedicated staff. The Society of Human Resource Management indicates that direct replacement costs are 50-60 percent of the departing employee's annual salary; indirect costs bring the total closer to 90-200 percent (although others use a more standard 150 percent). Relatively speaking, the value of retaining – and rejuvenating – workers is minimal.

Actively taking steps to embrace the company's culture, as well as its current and future needs, can do wonders for a team and ensuring job security. It will help improve productivity and make each team member more valuable, fulfilled and become an indispensable contributor to the company's bottom line.

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