The Secret to Retaining Tech Talent: Give Them Ways to Grow
If you want to keep that tech talent you invested so much time, energy and resources recruiting and hiring on, put yourself in their shoes. Work is about far more than coding: as employees rise in tech, they may be called upon to make presentations, participate in a conference, lead a team, articulate a complicated process to newbies, troubleshoot with peers — you name it. And employees are hungry to expand their skills. Companies that overlook this reality stand to lose that talent they worked so hard to find. That’s going to impact not just your present, but your future: those stand-out new hires already marked as candidates for succession may look elsewhere for opportunities.
To say this is not an ideal time to be bleeding talent in the tech sector is beyond an understatement. According to a recent survey by the job site Indeed, 86% of hiring managers say it’s challenging to find and hire tech talent. The average tenure in a job in 2016 was 4.2 years according to the BLS. But the average tenure in the tech industry is far lower, according to SHRM — only three years.
The reasons are numerous — including the nature of working in tech itself. Tech talent is by nature hungry to learn — whether or not you’re providing the opportunity, learning is part of their DNA. Many tech companies focus far more on apps and tools than on social and language interaction. But if you had the chance to ask a tech employee, most would readily convey a need to improve their soft skills as well — which is evidenced by the rising popularity of soft skills courses for tech talent offered by giants such as Harvard Extension.
The overall economy and work climate also play a key role:
- Recent economic shake-ups left many people realizing they need to keep a Plan B in their professional pocket.
- A thrilling but endless disruption of new innovations and new start-ups are constantly clamoring for tech talent — including your employees. Today, the pace of development and rollouts is generally rapid fire, and the people who work in this climate are used to training and ramping up fast.
- It’s intensely easy in this digital, mobile and social environment to look for greener grass on the other side.
- Increased globalization means different cultures, a variety of social behaviors and a range of different languages. To unify a multinational, multigenerational team takes far more than just hiring them.
Millennials have a core sense of healthy self-worth, and tend to see themselves as consumers of employers and jobs they can pick and choose from. But according to research by Deloitte, they’re also looking for an employer that offers more stability than ever before. And in terms of any career, you have to grow to remain in the same place. So if they’re in a job that doesn’t provide the chance to grow, they’re going to look for one that does. 18-35 year-olds stayed in a job for an average of 1.6 years last year — a trend noted by Lingo Live in their new report on the importance of upskilling for tech employees. Millennials are not only hungry to learn, they’re hungry to land in a place they can.
Align Learning With Working
The bottom line for today’s talent, and today’s digital culture a well, is that they are constantly experiencing new things: new apps, new social media pages, new forms of communication, new emojis, new policies and procedures, new bus routes, new challenges. This is the case at work as well as in life. Add the unique circumstances of any individual — such a software engineer for whom English is a second language or taking a job has meant living in a new country.
Every time our attention shifts to a new task or a new environment, we are thrust into a learning capacity once again. If you don’t provide your people with multidimensional learning and development opportunities, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to find the education and upskilling they need to grow. It just means their learning needs will not align with working for your company.
Instead, create that alignment — and then leverage it to drive engagement and ambition as your employees learn and grow within the context of their employer. Consider the soft skills you may want to offer:
Language skills and proficiency: According to the “Real Benefits” report by Lingo Live, language skills are overlooked by employers but highly valued by employees. In fact, a full 70% of engineers they surveyed believe their language skills play a key role in career advancement in their industry. Especially for tech talent that has been sponsored on a work visa, the challenge of communicating, writing, reading, and even interacting in English can be daunting. It’s a challenge easily remedied with a range of web-based, easily accessed language courses and practice.
Leadership skills: From team management to cultural customs and social etiquette, we expect a lot of our managers and leaders. In fact, the Education Advisory Board pinpointed a need to developed five key soft skills for tech talent, all of which are critical for a successful career trajectory. Rising up through the ranks usually means taking on more responsibility and overseeing employees. Among these key skills STEM fields are facing an increased demand for: creativity, teamwork/collaboration and building effective relationships. All can also be bridged into language development and cultural training, enabling tech talent to gain confidence that they can, indeed, become leaders.
Upskilling your talent is a tangible way to demonstrate that you value your employees not just as present-tense labor, but as future assets to your organization. But the benefits go far beyond the doors of your company and right into recruiting. Your employees will convey your brand whether or not you intend them to, but if they are growing and able to learn and develop within the aegis of your organization, they will let others know — and that makes you an employer people want to work for. For any organization trying to establish itself above the fray in this era of transparency, and be able to truly attract, hire, engage and retain the best tech talent, being able to provide soft skills training is an undeniable plus.
This article is sponsored by Lingo Live. Views are my own.
Photo Credit: Compu-Net Systems, LLC Flickr via Compfight cc