Eight ways to retain your best tech staff

Losing and replacing staff can be expensive – recruiting, training, the loss of talent and knowledge and clients’ good will, the change of team dynamics, and the dreaded domino effect where losing one key member of your team can lead others to question whether there is something better out there for them too.   

And that’s assuming you can replace employees that have moved on. In today’s world of tech, the well-documented shortage of digital skills means that competent software developers are hot property and employers really must stay ahead of the game to keep a good team in place.   

Holding onto your best tech staff is key 

High staff turnover can indicate shortcomings in a company’s management team and can impact business development and growth; for example, a high turnover of personnel will not be looked upon favourably if a company is seeking external funding.   

It is therefore prudent in today’s technology employment landscape for employers to take a strategic approach and implement measures aimed at valuing, rewarding and, ultimately, retaining their best staff.   

Here are eight aspects of tech roles that employers could be at risk of overlooking but, by considering them carefully, could reduce the chances of losing their best employees to competitors. 

1. Flexibility 

Embrace the increasing popularity of working from home. This is one trend that is not going anywhere for a while and a flexible employer can make or break an otherwise borderline role. Working from home is usually pretty viable in terms of technology teams – and the team itself will be able to provide input on how best to make this work. Once you have their feedback, ask yourself if there is anything more you can do to make this a real option for staff. Similarly, staff value the ability to work flexitime to allow for an improved work/life balance, and family friendly policies are also very attractive to an increasingly young group of employees.   

2. Professional development fund 

Consider offering key employees a budget that they can allocate as they see fit towards conferences and certifications. A so-called ‘professional development fund’ gives employees autonomy to identify those areas in which they want to develop, and also demonstrates the trust and value you as employer place on those employees. Ultimately, the employees will be more fulfilled and also become more skilled, which is a win-win for your business.   

3. Time out of the working week to spend time on non-work stuff   

This suggestion probably mostly pertains to developers who are likely to be working on their own personal programming projects out of work. Allocating a time allowance to be drawn from their working hours for them to work on personal projects will earn goodwill among staff and will mark you out as a forward thinking employer for recognising that, as your teams’ development skills grow, so too will the success of your business.   

This can still be a valuable perk for non-developers, who may choose to dedicate their ‘time out’ to working with a charity or supporting a local project. These things are great PR for a business and will reap rewards, while also satisfying employees.   

4. Equity/share scheme   

Consider how much more commitment your employees will feel to the business if they have an actual stake in its success. With the rise of crowdfunding, people are more familiar today with the idea of buying into a concept or business, and if employees feel they are helping to build the next big tech startup and stand to benefit directly from its success, they will not only dedicate themselves to their job but will likely have a longer term view of their position there.    

5. Working conditions    

It is not uncommon to hear of successful growth stage tech companies offering table tennis and pool tables, beer fridges and free gym membership to their staff. And you would be quite justified in calling it a cliché!  However, employers BEWARE. If you don’t offer perks such as these or if you don’t at least stretch to free soft drinks and occasional paid-for social events, you will stand out for the wrong reasons. It’s also important not to overlook whether the working environment is pleasant and appropriate for the role, eg is it quiet enough for developers and data scientists? Is it well-heated or ventilated? Does it have an attractive location?   

6. How ‘Joel Friendly’ is your set-up?   

The Joel Test is a simple measurement of the quality of a software team. Taking the test requires a yes or no answer to 12 questions and you score a point for every ‘yes’ you answer. Questions include ‘do you use source control?’ and ‘do you have a bug database?’ This straightforward test can be used to determine where improvements could be made to your software team. Where does your company sit on the scale? What are you doing to improve your score? If you are making a conscious effort to score higher then you will be better placed to retain staff.   

7. Regular pay reviews 

The need to review, and be seen to be reviewing, employees’ pay may seem obvious, but salaries are increasing. The tighter the employment market gets, the more offers your staff will be receiving from elsewhere, and so regular reviews (and rises) will help stem the tide and hopefully avoid the need to pull a counter offer out of the bag. The opportunity for promotion is closely linked to pay. When staff see that their effort and commitment is acknowledged and rewarded, and when they know there is a path of progression available to them, there is far less reason for them to seek alternative paths elsewhere.   

8. IT Kit 

Consider what machines you have and what software your developers use. Do employees have autonomy to choose their set up? For some developers, a certain laptop, monitor, adjustable standing desk might just matter a great deal, and if they can get it at another place of work they could be enticed away over something that could actually have been easily resolved by you. What tools are available to the team and what are your plans to keep your team and your business at the bleeding edge?     

Sam Wason & Gordon, Kaye Co-Founders and Directors at the IT recruitment agency Cathcart Associates 

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