Here's a problem:

When CIOs are focused on cutting costs and meeting service level requirements with fewer resources, retention can move to the back burner. After all, it's easy to think that employees feel fortunate just to have jobs in this economy. If you're not taking steps to retain top talent now, however, you're likely to lose them when business conditions improve and you need skilled workers more than ever.

That's the opinion of Dave Willmer, the executive director Robert Half Technology. Writing at IT Career Planet, he says identifying the people you want to stick around, and building a sensible succession plan, is vital to the overall health of your organization. Why? Because letting these folks know they've got advancement opportunities can boost their loyalty, even while it ensures your team has future people in place to fill management slots as they become available.

Willmer's suggestions:

Identify the right individuals: Start the process by noting the characteristics necessary in candidates for senior-level positions. Your list should include not only the requisite technical skills but, more important, the interpersonal abilities that an ideal candidate should possess, such as the ability to motivate others and build consensus.

Be clear about the requirements of the change: Once you've made your selections, let protégés know your intentions to gauge their interest in assuming higher-level positions.

Help them develop new skills: Begin by including designated successors in key meetings and discussions. You want to give them plenty of opportunity to observe the roles and make sure they are well prepared to assume them. In addition, these interactions allow successors to start building key relationships within the firm and get a feel for the thought processes, discussions and judgments that come into play at higher levels.

--Don Willmott