How to Retain Tech Talent: Combatting the Great Resignation

Jessica mitsch By Jessica Mitsch ● November 16, 2021
How to Retain Tech Talent Featured

Employ­ers must fig­ure out how to retain tech tal­ent dur­ing this major work­force upheaval, when many skilled work­ers are call­ing it quits. 

August broke employ­ee res­ig­na­tion records: 4.3 mil­lion peo­ple resigned from their jobs. This phe­nom­e­non, labeled the Great Res­ig­na­tion by econ­o­mists, has been most dis­rup­tive in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty, ser­vice, and restau­rant indus­tries, and is now impact­ing the tech sec­tor: a Har­vard Busi­ness Review study that ana­lyzed over 9 mil­lion employ­ee records from more than 4,000 com­pa­nies found a 4.5% increase in tech res­ig­na­tions in 2021, mark­ing one of the biggest jumps in res­ig­na­tions in any indus­try. The study dis­cov­ered this could be due to tech expe­ri­enc­ing huge surges in demand dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, lead­ing to over­whelmed employ­ees. Strik­ing­ly, 58% of tech work­ers report­ed suf­fer­ing from job burnout.
The fore­cast looks even grim­mer: 72% of tech employ­ees are con­sid­er­ing leav­ing their jobs over the next year, com­pared to 55% of the over­all Amer­i­can work­force debat­ing quitting.
Anoth­er insight was that res­ig­na­tion rates have had the largest increase among employ­ees aged 30 – 45, which is atyp­i­cal, giv­en that the 20 – 25 year-old demo­graph­ic is usu­al­ly more prone to leav­ing their first roles. Despite being a dynam­ic, in-demand, and high­er pay­ing field, the tech indus­try is in the midst of a widen­ing gap between the high num­ber of tech job open­ings and skilled tech tal­ent to fill it. Cou­pled with more and more res­ig­na­tions among the employ­ees cur­rent­ly in these posi­tions, indus­try ana­lysts project a deficit of 6 mil­lion skilled tech work­ers and $162 bil­lion worth of lost rev­enues by 2030.

In the face of so much uncer­tain­ty, com­pa­nies must look inward and devise clever solu­tions on how to retain tech tal­ent. Momen­tum works with com­pa­nies of all sizes on tech tal­ent pipeline devel­op­ment, and rec­om­mends these strate­gies to improve tech tal­ent retention:

  1. Offer Ample Train­ing Opportunities 

A stag­ger­ing 91% of tech work­ers want more train­ing from their employ­ers, a much high­er rate among tech employ­ees than the over­all work­force, where 21% report­ed they would like their cur­rent employ­er to improve in train­ing efforts. In fact, 32% of tech work­ers cite a lack of learn­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties” as the pri­ma­ry rea­son they leave their jobs, and 94% of employ­ees report they would stay at their com­pa­nies longer if they invest­ed in pro­fes­sion­al and career devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. Top of the list of spe­cif­ic tools they would like to learn, tech work­ers are ask­ing for tech­ni­cal skills relat­ed to their cur­rent role or project” (65%) fol­lowed by tech­ni­cal skills relat­ed to emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies” (60%). Tech work­ers also report pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment inter­est in soft skills areas like com­mu­ni­ca­tion, lead­er­ship, and project management.
Train­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly pro­grams that are cus­tomized to align with orga­ni­za­tions’ spe­cif­ic needs and busi­ness objec­tives, encour­ages employ­ee engage­ment and pro­vides moti­va­tion to improve. Orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment train­ing report 37% greater employ­ee pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and are 58% more pre­pared to meet future demands. And when train­ing pro­grams are made avail­able to employ­ees who have been his­tor­i­cal­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed in high­er-lev­el tech posi­tions, that mea­sur­ably advances your company’s com­mit­ment to diver­si­ty, equi­ty, and inclu­sion. Final­ly, in many cas­es, invest­ment in pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty train­ing to tech employ­ees is more cost effec­tive than recruit­ing fresh tal­ent: when employ­ers demon­strate com­mit­ment to the per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al growth of their team, their reten­tion rates improve.

2. Facil­i­tate Trans­par­ent Career Progression

Lim­it­ed career pro­gres­sion” is the top rea­son report­ed by 41% of tech employ­ees for look­ing else­where. Ensur­ing employ­ees have room to progress in their careers is essen­tial. Equal­ly impor­tant is inform­ing work­ers on what that pro­gres­sion looks like. Employ­ers won­der­ing how to retain tech tal­ent should out­line what is need­ed for each posi­tion to advance to the next lev­el. Some orga­ni­za­tions call these career jour­neys, but there are a vari­ety of com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles com­pa­nies can adapt to explain job tra­jec­to­ries. Regard­less of for­mat, com­pa­nies should chart a clear path for employ­ees, so they can be empow­ered to gain key com­pe­ten­cies and achieve posi­tion-advanc­ing milestones.
Anoth­er way to pri­or­i­tize oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­mo­tion is by estab­lish­ing for­mal sys­tems for fre­quent feed­back shar­ing and goal track­ing. Empha­siz­ing this dia­logue sig­nals to employ­ees that their employ­er nev­er wants them to be in the dark with how they are per­form­ing and where they could be doing bet­ter. This goes hand-in-hand with train­ing, because 75% of those in tech feel that their com­pa­ny focus­es more on attract­ing new employ­eesthan invest­ing in the exist­ing ones. Stress­ing upskilling pro­grams or men­tor­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties shows your team that they can rise to high­er tier posi­tions. This com­bats feel­ings of stay­ing stag­nant or being under­val­ued, which yields dis­en­chant­ed employ­ees that may want to move elsewhere.

3. Fos­ter a Sup­port­ive Com­pa­ny Culture 

Tech work­ers expe­ri­enc­ing burnout because of height­ened need for their skills — more hours, and more demands — are twice as like­ly to quit their jobs. That’s why hav­ing a com­pa­ny cul­ture that sup­ports employ­ees should be an espe­cial­ly press­ing pri­or­i­ty for com­pa­nies. A tox­ic work envi­ron­ment” was cit­ed by 39% of employ­eesas the main rea­son why they are con­sid­er­ing a change out of tech and not being val­ued and appre­ci­at­ed” was cit­ed by 37%. One of our Momen­tum grad­u­ates, Nic­hole Ross, spoke in a Women in Tech pan­el in ear­ly 2021, and she applaud­ed the com­pa­ny cul­ture sur­round­ing her new role as a soft­ware engi­neer at Xact­ly Corp. In fact, she chose this posi­tion over offers from oth­er com­pa­nies that promised high­er salaries because of Xactky’s cul­ture. Nic­hole spoke on a few high­lights such as the way high­er-ups revised a pow­er­point announc­ing DEI ini­tia­tives with her sug­ges­tions despite hav­ing just joined the com­pa­ny, the recent intro­duc­tion of com­pa­ny-wide men­tal health days, and the advo­ca­cy and good­will her supe­ri­ors and team­mates demon­strate on a dai­ly basis. Nic­hole empha­sized that cul­ture real­ly mat­ters when con­sid­er­ing how to retain tech talent.
This is backed by data, as 86% of employ­ees at com­pa­nies with strong cul­ture feel the lead­er­ship lis­tens to them. Sur­vey­ing your employ­ees about their work envi­ron­ment and expe­ri­ences, and imple­ment­ing their feed­back is a great way to show that lead­er­ship cares. Over­ar­ch­ing­ly, work­place cul­tures that live out clear­ly-artic­u­lat­ed com­pa­ny val­ues through every­day prac­tices cre­ates an authen­tic­i­ty that employ­ees can buy into. Employ­ees point to reg­u­lar and can­did com­mu­ni­ca­tions (50%), employ­ee recog­ni­tion (49%), and access to management/​leadership (47%) as the biggest fac­tors that impact work­place cul­ture, where­as exec­u­tives often point to finan­cial per­for­mance (65%) and com­pet­i­tive com­pen­sa­tion (62%). Cul­ture trans­for­ma­tion begins from the top-down, so it is impor­tant for man­age­ment to look beyond the num­bers and also focus on attrib­ut­es that their employ­ees report mat­ter to them. Putting employ­ees first and focus­ing on cre­at­ing an open and accept­ing work­place is vital. Inject­ing some fun through perks trade­marked by some of the biggest tech firms such as employ­ee-wide meals or play­ful work­spaces are oth­er ways to fos­ter amenable envi­ron­ments for longevity.

4. Put Flex­i­bil­i­ty and Rewards at the Forefront

The pan­dem­ic neces­si­tat­ing social dis­tanc­ing and stay-at-home orders has ush­ered in a whole new way to work and caused many employ­ees to assess how they bal­ance their pri­or­i­ties. 40% of employ­ees say lack of flex­i­bil­i­ty in work­ing hours” and 30% said lack of remote work options” are top con­sid­er­a­tions for why employ­ees say they are con­sid­er­ing leav­ing their job in tech. As of June, only 17% of tech employ­ees found work­ing in the office full-time to be extreme­ly or very desir­able, while at the same time, there has been a decline in the desire to work remote­ly five days a week, from 41% in Q4 2020 to 29% in Q2 2021. This mixed feed­back explains the rise of hybrid mod­els, with a mix of in-per­son and remote work. Employ­ers should keep in mind that, while tech work­ers like the flex­i­bil­i­ty and sched­ule con­trol that remote work pro­vides, they have report­ed greater dif­fi­cul­ty main­tain­ing work­ing rela­tion­ships with col­leagues and their man­agers. Build­ing in expec­ta­tions for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and forums for vir­tu­al events are help­ful in remov­ing bar­ri­ers for con­nec­tion when not face-to-face.
In addi­tion to flex­i­bil­i­ty in work loca­tion and hours, com­pa­nies also need to acknowl­edge the pres­sures the pan­dem­ic has placed on every­one. Employ­ers should re-assess whether their com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages are aligned with the high-demand mar­ket for tech. It does not stop there, how­ev­er, because adjust­ing pay is usu­al­ly a short-term moti­va­tion­al fix for reten­tion. Rec­og­niz­ing jobs well done in for­mal and infor­mal capac­i­ties and imple­ment­ing rewards for spe­cif­ic accom­plish­ments in line with orga­ni­za­tion­al goals helps trans­late into a long-last­ing impact on reten­tion. Get­ting cre­ative with mean­ing­ful ben­e­fits is help­ful, too, like the way some com­pa­nies are offer­ing child­care sup­port to assist par­ents work­ing from home.
We are liv­ing in a time of wide­spread career reshuf­fling, and that has giv­en employ­ees greater expec­ta­tions in areas like learn­ing and devel­op­ment, ways of work­ing, com­pen­sa­tion, com­pa­ny cul­ture, and more. Momen­tum offers train­ing solu­tions in both tech­ni­cal and soft skills as well as cor­po­rate improve­ment cours­es, so that your busi­ness can make advances in how to retain tech tal­ent and emerge from the Great Res­ig­na­tion even stronger than before.

Co-Authored by Gin­ny Howey.

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