If there were ever a question of how important a high-performing technology team is to an organization’s success, the pandemic has provided an unequivocal answer.
The work IT departments did during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic ensured that businesses that needed to quickly switch to remote could get there seamlessly.
IT leaders helped companies that were dependent on in-person communication expand their use of digital channels to stay connected. By investing in integrated business tools, they’ve been able to develop sustainable long-term growth strategies.
As a direct result of the creativity and ingenuity IT teams have shown during the past two years, a new challenge has come to the forefront: how to retain top tech talent.
How to Retain Top Tech Talent
According to a TalentLMS and a Workable survey, 72% of technology professionals are thinking about quitting their job over the next 12 months.
This might be one of the most significant threats of the Great Resignation. While hiring tech talent has long been competitive, the same research suggested IT professionals aren’t simply looking for higher pay or better benefits. Fifty-eight percent said they were experiencing burnout, and 41% saw only limited opportunities to progress their career with their existing employer.
Other challenges included a lack of flexibility in working hours, cited by 40%, along with toxic work environments (39%).
Turnover among IT employees doesn’t just mean companies will struggle to maintain their legacy hardware and existing applications. It could also limit their ability to innovate and explore tools that could give them a competitive advantage. Gartner found that 64% of IT leaders see a shortage of talent as a huge barrier to adopting emerging technologies.
The effort to retain top tech talent will look different from one organization to the next, but some common strategies apply. Here are five best practices to start with.
1. Evaluate your hiring process
We’re all familiar with the traditional hiring process:
- Post a job opening
- Wait for the resumes to come in
- Call candidates and have them show up to the office—possibly multiple times—for interviews
- Give them a project or challenge to demonstrate their skills
- Days or even weeks later, extend an offer to your top pick
This might have worked in the past, but organizations can significantly improve their ability to retain top tech talent by reimagining how the employee journey begins. As consulting firm Korn Ferry points out, asking candidates to perform technical tests might cost them time and, ultimately, the talent they want most.
IT and human resources (HR) leaders should also ask themselves:
- Does the job posting show how technology brings value to people—including other employees and customers—and contributes to real business impact?
- Can the recruitment process begin less formally through conversations on platforms like LinkedIn or through employee referrals?
- Are there ways to meet potential new hires through cloud calling software rather than on-site meetings?
- Can the process be streamlined? Can you reduce the number of interview rounds, increase the quality of the questions asked, and accelerate onboarding?
Hiring might be seen as simply filling a gap, but Korn Ferry suggests making sure new employees see reasons to stay with the company from the start.
2. Focus on reskilling and upskilling
The best IT professionals love to solve problems, whether it’s how to integrate disparate applications or how to scale computing resources to handle more demanding workloads. That means they’re also lifelong learners because the tools they use are constantly evolving.
Organizations that recognize this and provide programs to further develop tech employees will be better set up to retain top tech talent. Randstad Sourceright’s research on the top IT skills of 2022 showed the five most in-demand subjects are:
- AI and machine learning
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
- Cloud computing
If your organization doesn’t use some of these technologies today, think about how employees could get up to speed in other ways. This could include pursuing formal education and certification programs or even getting hands-on experience through pilot projects.
3. Take employee engagement seriously
Does the IT department team feel motivated? Do they act like they’re connected to your organization’s mission and purpose? Employee engagement can sometimes be difficult to measure, but more organizations are paying attention to it than ever before.
In its 2021 Employee Experience survey, Willis Towers Watson found 40% of firms believe the pandemic had a negative impact on employee engagement. The same study said those focusing on creating a strong employee experience are 90% more likely to report lower annual turnover than their peers.
For ideas on how to get started in this area, check out these tips to boost employee engagement.
4. Implement flexible and hybrid work policies
When online jobs platform Dice asked more than 1,000 tech workers how they felt about working from home, the results were clear. The vast majority was tired of spending their days in back offices and cubicles.
Only 17% said they liked working in the office full-time. That doesn’t mean they want to be at home all the time either. Dice saw the desire to be fully remote drop from 41% in 2020 to 29% in 2021.
Hybrid work options could offer a more personalized approach to managing and retaining tech talent.
Maybe it means an employee doesn’t need to be on-site to address help desk issues, but they should be for important meetings with stakeholders. Maybe it means the tech team works in-person two or three days a week.
We recommend working directly with employees and team leads to figure out a schedule that works best for them.
5. Review compensation and benefits packages
IT professionals who work at a company for five years or more possess knowledge that goes far beyond technical acumen.
They understand your business processes, your key objectives, and your culture. In that sense, when you retain top tech talent, you’re protecting the increasing value of your initial investment.
Of course, the budget for salaries and benefits is never unlimited—even among the biggest companies. This is where it may be helpful to look at industry benchmarks to determine what’s competitive and realistic.
Motion Recruitment’s 2022 Tech Salary Guide, for instance, found average pay increases of nearly 6.2% across major hubs. The report’s authors noted, however, that the rise of hybrid work means employers should focus on the value a candidate brings, not their location.
Although labor market experts sometimes talk about a “war” for tech talent, maybe it’s more of an exercise in building the best possible relationships with IT professionals.
If you really want to retain top tech talent, make sure empowering your team is one of your biggest priorities in 2022 and beyond.