How to Retain Top IT Talent
In any modern business, the technology behind your offering is a crucial piece of what makes the operations tick. Everything from product development right through to operational efficiency relies on strong technical foundations that serve as the springboard for your organization. Without this, you are bound to be left behind by your competitors over time.
In order to build and maintain high-level technical capabilities, you need to hire the right people. Finding highly skilled IT talent is incredibly challenging and companies spend a lot of time and money trying to find the right people to take their company to the next level. But what often gets overlooked, is what it takes to retain these people. Because they are in such high demand, they will always have plenty of options available to them, so you need to focus on what it takes to keep them at your company once you’ve got them there.
From our experience, here are some of the key things you should be thinking about when trying to retain your high performers:
- Purpose. Technical people are able to apply their skills to a wide range of different applications and so you cannot just rely on financial remuneration to keep them engaged and loyal to your organization. There needs to be a deeper reason for why they are there. The way you do that is through a compelling mission. Your organization needs to have a clearly defined purpose that everyone is working towards – that acts as the north star towards which everything is pointing. When you do this and communicate it effectively, you can transform a job into a calling and empower those top technical people to really make an impact in the world that means something to them. When you get that right, the money doesn’t matter anymore because they have a feeling of meaning and fulfilment that will keep them with you for the long term.
- Lifelong Learning. Technology is continually evolving and high performers are going to want to keep on top of new developments as they come along. Your organization needs to value this and take actions to create the space for lifelong learning. If you can nurture a culture which celebrates learning and development, you’re much more likely to keep the best people. Your IT talent should have specific resources, opportunities, and (most importantly) time set aside to learn and develop new skills – which will then compound over time. By providing this space to grow, you empower these people to keep improving themselves, rather than getting stagnant.
- Working Environment. This is an obvious one, but it’s amazing to see how many companies still get this wrong. The quality of the work environment is going to make a big difference to your ability to retain talent, so it’s worth investing in this – rather than just trying to cut costs at every opportunity. Whether its in-person or remote, speak to your people and identify the key things that would make their working environment more pleasant and productive. Then act on those. Every investment you make here speaks wonders about the fact that you care about your people and you want them to succeed. Don’t just assume that you know what they want. Ask them and then overdeliver wherever possible.
- Recognition. One of the most important pieces of retention is recognition – where you acknowledge and celebrate your team for the work that they do. This is even more true when it comes to technical work because often they don’t receive the credit they deserve as a lot of their work is hidden from the end user. Go out of your way to recognize and appreciate the efforts of your technical staff and you’ll build those positive associations that makes for a better working life. We all need a bit of validation and without positive feedback, we’re likely to start looking elsewhere. Make this a priority and you’ll find that your people are happier and more productive than ever.
- Incentives. As humans we are driven by incentives, so think carefully about the incentives you’re giving to your employees. We’re not just talking about money here (although that is a key component) but also about the other social and individual incentives that guide our efforts when we’re at work. These should be driven by your company values and should be set up in a way to drives towards the good of the overall organization. If they aren’t aligned across functions and team members – then a clash is inevitable. Make sure that your incentives are fair, well understood, and focused on the right things – and you’ll be off to the races.
- Cutting Edge Technology. The best IT talent wants to work on and with the best technology in the world. That’s just how it works. So if your company is not going to invest in the best of the best when it comes to the actual technology itself, you’re going to lose people. This is more than just a job to these people, it’s an obsession, and so you need to feed that desire and give them all the resources that they need to thrive. If you do so, they can deliver incredible innovations for you that will more than pay for the investment you make.
Those are just a few of the things that you can do to retain your high performers for the long haul. We can’t even begin to express how much of a difference this can make to your organization when you build strong technical capabilities with experience and domain expertise. It is the catalyst that can take your company to the next level, disrupting the status quo, and changing the game.
So, when you hire that all-star team that’s ready to take on the world, be sure to keep them around. Make them believers. Invest in them. Trust them. And they’ll carry you to where you need to go.