Guide: How To Retain Top Tech Talent

It can be a detrimental setback when your top employees leave, and in a competitive technology cluster like we have in the West or Silicon Gorge as its fondly referred too, it hurts worse when they leave for a rival.

All that time and money you’ve spent hiring, training and growing your people suddenly becomes a gift to your competition.

This is unfortunately a very real side effect of a growing technology cluster, especially Bristol where we’re experiencing a shortage of skilled workers for technology roles. The drive for scale has companies poaching talent, startups, scale-ups and corporate going toe to toe scrapping for the best talent.

On slightly more positive note, you know you’re doing something right if your competition see value in your employees, however we’re seeing businesses spend more and more time, resources and money on retaining talent.

Here at Peaple Talent, we’ve drawn up 5 key factors that will serve as a guide for hiring managers when looking to develop a culture of growth.

1. Identify Top Performers

Your competition is only interested in your top-performing employees, there are a number of ways to determine who they are in your teams.

Start by finding a way to measure your employees’ performance so you can set goals and expectations. This is especially helpful for new employees. These metrics will help you give your employees clear direction and ensure their work stays on track.

Take advantage of performance reviews to see where your employees are going above and beyond, and where their weaknesses are.

If necessary, look past money and numbers to find out who is trying to excel. For example, I.T.-based jobs can be difficult to measure. Consider productivity-based metrics that focus on your employees’ ability to meet project deadlines. We’ve seen with the increase in transformation projects, organisational goals are placing huge acts of accountability on IT and infrastructure teams to deliver on time, and on budget.

High performers want to expand their skill set. Find or become a mentor who is a trusted source for employees to ask questions and receive knowledge. Give employees an opportunity to lead a project. Outside of ‘tasks’, encourage your employees to attend classes, webinars and peer support networks, in Bristol we have an embarrassment of tech events hosted right across the city (check out TechSPARK for a full list). These are engaging and cost effective methods for employees to expand their knowledge and gain experience.

2. Flexibility

Work is work, but companies are becoming smart to the ‘work life balance’ expectation of technology talent now. Your employees are human. They have kids, appointments and everything that makes life a juggling act at the best of time. Giving your talent flexibility with their schedules can be a helpful way to improve employee engagement, and ultimately retain employees.

An estimated 1.5 million U.K employees now work from home at least once a week, CIPHR. Policies like these, as simple as it sounds, can have a huge impact on that employee, giving them more time to focus in isolation, save costs on commuting and generally improve their output if managed right.

This simple “perk” can be a big incentive for your employees to stay.

3. Competitive Analysis

Without sounding like some James Bond recruitment ninja, keep tabs on your competition, there is a lot we can learn from business big and small in our region. From how they structure engagement with candidates, to the benefits and company culture they portray across their hiring pages – we can all learn from those who are successfully recruiting.

Take advantage of job websites such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn. Use these tools as a comparison to your own offerings. If you meet or beat the criteria, then it should increase your chances of retaining and attracting talent, and can be used as ammo when it comes to candidates with multiple offers on the table.

4. Communication

Nobody wants to be patronised, but an occasional simple form of recognition like this could be all that’s needed to keep employees motivated.

Take note of your employees’ achievements. One of the easiest ways to keep employees happy is to let them know that their accomplishments are being noticed, communicating them across the business will help them build their internal brand, plus go a long way with employee engagement. Don’t wait for their annual performance review.

In our experience technology teams like to be rewarded in many different ways, their unlike performance roles i.e Sales or Marketing who have performance KPI’s and bonuses attached. Consider asking your tech teams how they like to be rewarded. They may just be looking for a pat on the back. You might be surprised which methods they find most appealing.

5. Compensate

Consider performance-based incentives that give your employees a chance to earn more money.

If you have employees who are tied to transformation projects, consider offering them commission on top of their base salary to deliver on time.

Some startup technology businesses also include investments, such as stock options to give employees a sense of ownership and purpose.

Educational assistance is also a great incentive as well, especially if you want employees to expand their skill-set, we see this with a lot of companies bringing in graduates, but it doesn’t just stop their, you want all your employees to driving a culture of continual improvement, a growth mindset if you will.

6. Your Space Matters

Let’s face it, most of us aren’t Google, so sleeping pods, slides and free bikes are probably off the agenda here.

However, your work space has a massive part to play when it comes to retaining and maximising your workforce. Simple niceties, such as free coffee, can go a long way when it comes to making your employees happy and boosting productivity. In fact, more than two-in-five employees say they’re less productive without coffee – we’ll hold our hand up here, thats definitely true at Peaple HQ.

On your space, you should also consider your employees’ workspace. Do you provide comfortable place for them to work? Can they easily communicate with their coworkers? Are there any tools, equipment, software or resources that could make their job easier? Do they have places to have formal and informal meetings? Does your office have the technology to allow them to quickly and simply communicate with remote workers or clients?

Recently Sony Systems totally revamped their offices in Bristol to maximise all of the above, and to fantastic effect – improving retention, culture and outputs across the board.

7. Avoid New Job Titles

Some employers see job title changes as a cost-efficient way to retain employees and boost morale. But it’s not as effective as you might think.

In a 2013 study, nearly half of employers (47 percent) reported that they usually or always hire candidates who have held the same job title as the position they’re hiring for, according to CareerBuilder.

Therefore, giving your employees common job titles makes them an easy target for hiring managers who work for your competition.

8. Non-Compete Agreements

Competition for talent cannot be avoided. You have to accept that no matter how happy your workers are, some are eventually going to leave.

As a business you need to be sure to protect yourself, a non-compete agreement would be a good way to protect your company. For guidance on this check out Barcan+Kirby guide to employment contracts.

However, it has to be said if your employees don’t have access to vital information, then a non-compete agreement could open yourself up to public criticism.

In balance you also have to consider if a non-compete contract requirement will push away potential talent. Some might see them as intimidating.

Remember that most non-compete agreements have time constraints that eventually expire. You also have to consider the costs if you were to pursue a lawsuit.

9. Exit interview

Not all employers take advantage of exit interviews. But this could be your best opportunity to receive a raw, honest response from employees before their departure.

Use this opportunity to ask why they are leaving. They may tell you why they found your competition more appealing and how you can prevent the departure of further employees. We recently read a really good piece from Harvard Business Review called Making Exit Interviews Work.

Make it clear that you’re there to listen to their experiences, feelings and judgments.

10. Don’t burn bridges

Breaking up is hard, and while it’s easy to be bitter about your employees’ exit, it’s important to make their departure a positive experience, you have to reflect your company culture from beginning to end.

Focus on their contributions to the company and goals they’ve met. Encourage them to touch base periodically. Remember that there’s always a chance an employee could return to your company in the future.