It's well documented that there is a skills shortage in the IT sector, so it's crucial for IT businesses to recruit and retain the very best people as the war for talent intensifies.

With technology itself – and therefore the work that technology companies are required to do – continuously evolving, so too are staffing needs. Advanced digital skills are an even more desirable quality in employees, who need to stay on top of these changes and react to them.

So how can businesses differentiate themselves to ensure they're attracting the cream of the crop, and are always on the front foot?

Matt Fahy, Chief Innovation Officer at Unum talks to Tech Radar Pro about the importance of attracting and retaining the best talent for the IT industry.

TechRadar Pro: How can IT firms recruit and retain the best people, as the war for talent intensifies?

Matt Fahy: High staff turnover in the IT sector is not an issue that is likely to disappear. If anything, it will become even more deeply ingrained as the war for talent intensifies for two main reasons:

Firstly, people are increasingly seeing start-up roles as viable career progression opportunities, favouring their dynamism over the long-term job security offered by larger firms.

Secondly, roles for in-house IT and tech practitioners are on the rise as SMEs aim to save money on additional resource, opening up a raft of opportunities for IT professionals to explore.

According to research by Capita, 71% of people would be more likely to take a job if the employer offered good benefits, and our research tells us that although IT businesses are reliant on their people to give them the competitive edge, over 15% don't offer any form of employee benefits at all.

There is an obvious opportunity for firms. By incentivising both prospective and current employees with an attractive benefits package, IT businesses can position themselves as a company that cares, which is something many employees are looking for beyond a decent basic salary.

Offering good employee benefits to attract talent – and to retain it – undeniably makes a great deal of business sense too.

Recent research we commissioned with Oxford Economics showed that the IT and technology sector loses a staggering £1.891bn a year through staff turnover.

This cost is largely attributable to the fact that it takes professionals in the sector an average of 29 weeks to reach their optimum productivity, so retaining staff by looking after their overall health and wellness is crucial for a businesses' bottom line.

TRP: How big a problem is sickness absence in the technology sector?

MF: Sickness absence is a massive issue in the technology sector, and it is well known that high stress and burnout rates are a contributing factor. Research by Randstad found that 49% of IT professionals feel they are working too hard as their companies are stretched for resource.

Poorly managed, sickness absence can have a considerable impact on your business, often causing those picking up the slack in the office to leave and driving up staff turnover.

According to our research, sickness absence and staff turnover typically costs IT firms with over 500 employees £620,000 a year, which isn't an insignificant amount!

Offering benefits like Health Insurance and Income Protection to staff will help in the management of sickness absence while also making your workforce feel cared for.

In addition, things like employee assistance programs – frequently included as part of an Income Protection package – will help employees who are on a long term sickness absence return to work when they're ready.

TRP: Could working in the IT sector leave employees financially exposed?

MF: Despite 89% of companies in the sector claiming they hugely value their staff, few are taking proactive measures to incentivise them beyond basic salary.

In fact, businesses within the IT sector are more likely to insure replaceable assets such as printers and office equipment than they are their staff. Less than a third (31%) of businesses protect their staff against long-term sickness and financial difficulty.

To put this into perspective, almost half (49%) of IT businesses have buildings insurance and 45% have contents insurance.

A recent survey by Robert Walters has shown that IT contractor salaries have risen by 13% from 2013 to 2014, but with living costs and demand for skilled IT professionals continuously rising too employees are becoming much savvier.

Interest in 'total reward' has grown, so things like competitive employee benefits packages can no longer be seen as an optional extra.