Okay, the following article is not related only to tech companies, but to companies with IT departments in general, and who struggle to hire and maintain their tech workers (so, basically, all of them…?).
According to a LinkedIn study, software and internet companies had the highest employee turnover rates in 2017, when compared to other major industries. This is explained by the fact that there is a shortage of supply of tech workers against company demands.
Within a field in which there is virtually zero unemployment and so much competition for talent, what can you do to ensure that your turnover rate does not go through the roof?
We can have a look at Maslow’s pyramid of needs to see what influences the career decisions of your tech workers, and in which key areas you should apply your strategy:
In this pyramid, in which at the base rest our most fundamental needs, and at the top the things we need in order to be happy; we are able to uncover exactly where we can act in order to have happier and more loyal employees at our firm.
Lets just get it out of the way and assume you provide your employees with adequate compensation and benefits in order to write off the base of the pyramid. If this assumption does not fit you, then it is easy to figure out why you are having a brain drain.
Let’s now have a look at the top of the pyramid, where the Self-fulfilment needs are – these pertain to when an individual finds its true calling. To be able to reach this level, one has to have their basic psychological needs met, hence why Maslow himself considered it rare to reach the stage of self-actualization in a competitive society with scarce resources such as ours. Most people are way too busy surviving and caring for their basic needs, to be able to reach a point in which they can focus on uncovering their true potential and become a fulfilled and happy individual.
What does this have to do with my employee turnover then?
Everything! If you provide your employees with fair wages and benefits, and don’t have them on precarious contracts, then you do not need to worry about the base of the pyramid. On the other hand, the top of the pyramid is something outside of your control. More money will not unlock someone’s “full potential”, nor will it another promotion. However, what you can do is create the pathways that may lead your employees to become the best possible version of themselves, both professionally and personally. You cannot control what goes on their personal lives, but you can interfere in their professional environment. The pathways you need to create for your workers to reach the top of the pyramid are related to the middle of Maslow’s pyramids: the Psychological Needs, the feelings of belonging, of prestige and of accomplishment.
There are 2 of these pathways in which you can start working immediately: retention policies and strong company culture.
Pathway One – Retention Policies
An effective Retention Programme starts at the hiring process by choosing team members that will fit well within the company. Access to training for further improvement of skills and ability to participate in relevant conferences and events should also be a staple in any modern organization. Flexibility should also be key – the offering of a remote day per week, plus the ability to work from home when the kids are sick or the plumber needs to come around and do some fixing, not only allows your employees more free time to be with their friends and family (it is estimated that LA drivers spend 102 hours in traffic per year, for example), but it also makes them feel trusted. Some other obvious, but not less important features, include a comfortable and well-lit office and provision of free coffee and fruit/healthy snacks.
Pathway Two – Strong company culture
A company culture is considered to be the set of beliefs, values and behaviours than workers share within an organization. However, by strong company culture, I mean a healthy, vibrant and dynamic psychosocial environment – an environment in which social relationships can thrive, even outside of work, and in which everybody feels respected and in possession of a say in how work is managed and developed.
It is no easy task to create such an environment nor is there that one recipe which you can simply apply to every organization. Nevertheless, there are a few key areas we can identify and get to work. To allow social relationships to thrive, we need to give the space for them to happen at work – having a spacious common room/area where people can relax and unwind – and at home – having a whatsapp or slack group for team members to share jokes, nice restaurants they visit, or just occasional accomplishments in their day-to-day life. Another important input you can have is team-building events – preparing fun outings for your employees can have incredible benefits in the overall mood and dynamic at the office -, these can range from a lunch out, or a few beers at the lounge area, to a full day of activities such as paintball, escape room, soccer tournaments… your imagination is the limit. It is important to do it on a semi-regular basis and include a surprise or two. It makes your employees feel pampered and recognized. To have a healthy and balanced method of working, it is key to have in place a conflict resolution framework to tackle issues between team members as soon as they arise, and to give space and voice for people to raise their concerns.
There are several other minute features you can put in place in order to fortify you company culture, so many one could write a book on them, but these are two of my personal favourites: introduce new hires to everyone in the company (bonus points if the person doing the introduction is senior management/c-suite) – this makes new employees feel protected and included right from the get go. And, in roles that do not require customer-facing time, allow for an informal workplace – this results in everyone feeling the freedom to express their true selves and becoming more productive as a result.
Influencing the middle of Maslow’s pyramid in order to allow your employees to be happy and engaged at work, and also give them the tools to reach the top and achieve their full potential, is a process that will not only grow your organization, but will allow you to retain your top talent and attract high performers from your competitors.