Retaining your tech staff

With tech professionals – especially skilled specialists – in constant and high demand, you face a constant battle to keep hold of your best tech talent. To retain the cream of the crop, you’ll have to make your offer more appealing than anything else that comes their way. Here are five strategies you can use now to keep your tech staff happy, engaged, and on your payroll.

Keep on top of market salary rates

Specialists can command a huge market rate as freelancers and contractors, as well as in major tech companies, so the first step in retaining your tech talent is to frequently review the market rates on offer. It is essential that you communicate to internal stakeholders the vital importance of at least matching – if not exceeding – the going rate, and getting budget allocation accordingly.

Being proactive with pay rises that match market rates is a way to show employees that you genuinely value their input – and their wellbeing. Applying regular pay rises also helps to deter employees from hunting down that information themselves – and getting side-tracked by the other opportunities that are out there.

If the budget is difficult to secure, create your business case around the value that your tech staff bring to the entire company, versus the cost of attracting and retaining a new member of staff. If you need further proof, the State Government of Victoria found that the cost of turning over a staff position can be anywhere between one third and three quarters of that person’s annual salary cost. Other studies suggest estimate the cost to be between $10,000 and $30,000.

That said, expecting that any member of the tech team will stay on indefinitely is unrealistic: compensating for churn by ensuring your team has a high bench strength should also feature in your hiring strategy.

Look to the start-up world

With Silicon Valley setting the gold standard for tech employment, it may be wise to look to start-up culture and try to replicate some aspects of what makes tech start-ups so attractive. Tech specialists thrive on challenges and new experiences.

For an example, Google famously offers ‘20%’ time – that is, time to innovate and work on personal interest projects – which has led to some of their flagship products, such as Gmail, Google Maps and Adsense. Others simply offer free lunch as a way to keep staff healthy, well fed, and sat at their desks working.

Most businesses are, of course, different from start-ups, but you may be able to cherry-pick ideas that will work for you. Often, you can achieve this kind of engagement by offering interesting, varied work that makes use of new technologies and platforms and allows continuous on-the-job learning.

Remember that tech workers will often find the most satisfaction in opportunities to try new technologies and systems. They want to be challenged and have time to experiment in their day-to-day job. Conversely, tech employees who use the same (often outdated) systems day in, day out, will grow bored quickly and move on to something more engaging sooner rather than later. Tech employees value the opportunity to build their skills – particularly if this leads to other opportunities in your organisation.

The best plan? To ask your team what interests and motivates them, and you’ll have an engaged and motivated tech staff.

Offer great perks

If the budget is still difficult to find, there may be an opportunity to make up for it with perks like flexible working options, more leave entitlement, early Fridays during summer, or regular team lunches. Bearing in mind that a tech specialist may work best uninterrupted at home, or even at night, a lenient work schedule can also be a way to get the most out of your team. Some studies suggest that 36% of people would choose remote working over a pay rise for instance. 37% would even accept a 10% pay cut if they could work from home instead.

The best way to design a benefits package will be to talk with each individual in your team and negotiate what’s best for them. Parents of young children may appreciate flexible working options; younger employees might gravitate more towards extended leave. The key here is to be accommodating in order to keep your best team members happy.

These discussions are absolutely vital, as they will be specific for each employee. However, research produced for the Australian Workplace Relations Study found that across a number of factors, employees tend to be less satisfied with their pay packets than anything else. It is only by talking to your staff regularly that you will get an accurate indication of their individual satisfaction levels.

Invest in training

Training and upskilling is an extremely important part of a tech professional’s career. As new technologies emerge, training is required to keep on top of developments. Training may come in the form of in-house professional development, external workshops and even further formal education – masters, diploma and certificate courses.

Training is an investment in both your team’s capacity and in your employee retention rate, so it should be an important piece of the budget puzzle – not an afterthought. IT employees typically enjoy learning new skills, and the opportunity to earn CV enhancing qualifications like CCNA, MCP, PRINCE2 or Certified ScrumMaster are valued by your employees, your business and your customers.

Training shouldn’t be seen as a costly tool for appeasing employees though. The more skilled your workforce, the better they become at their jobs – helping to increase efficiency, reduce costs and stay on board with your team. Offering your employees industry-standard IT qualifications training also demonstrates a high degree of trust in each individual; you know that they could look for employment elsewhere armed with their new skills, but you want to reward them for their contributions to making your business better.

Discuss career path

To prevent tech staff becoming dissatisfied or restless with their job, it is worthwhile at annual review time to ask what each employee is looking for in their career – whether it’s the opportunity to try new things, to transfer to another location, or a new role or title.

Then, if a talented team member expresses an interest in moving from pure tech to architecture, or into a management role, for instance, one of the best things you can do as a manager is to help them map such a move within your organisation. It’s a key way to show that you have their career interests in mind and that your business can assist them in reaching their career goals, and it will help you win loyalty and trust as an employer.

Short on great technology talent? Give Michael Page Technology a call to kick off your hiring process.

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