How can you keep your technical staff engaged and avoid losing them to your competitors?
A recent study indicates that companies in the IT industry (amongst the Fortune 500) experience the highest turnover rate (SOURCE: PayScale). Good employees quit because they feel undervalued, underwhelmed, underpaid, or overworked. (SOURCE: Wasp Buzz). As a result, employee turnover is costing your organization more time and money than you think. Believing that technical employees are “replaceable” may appear to be satisfactory to some firms. In the long term, however, you may sacrifice more than money; customer satisfaction, business knowledge, and team morale.
PayScale, an online salary, benefits, and compensation data company, surveys thousands of business leaders and Human Resources staff on an annual basis regarding their workforce and remuneration practices. According to PayScale’s 2014 Survey, compensation (pay) is often not the primary reason people leave their jobs. This trend (79%) has been evident since 2009. SOURCE: PayScale
What does Blue Mountain do to keep valuable technical staff?
Ways to Retain Technical Staff
1. Hire the Best People from the Start
The decision to bring on new staff is a two-way street—your organization seeks their expertise, and they seek a company where they can grow and hone their technical skills. Providing this arrangement from the start can foster a great relationship between your organization and its staff.
2. Pay Higher Than Competitive Salaries
Negotiating above average, industry compensation at the onset of the hiring process expresses your organization’s intent to invest in the talent that the prospective team member brings to the table.
An organization’s inability to provide a competitive salary (23%) is the second most reason that positions are not filled in a timely manner, preceded only by the lack of qualified applicants (60%). SOURCE: PayScale
3. Provide Innovative, Employer-Paid Benefits
A comprehensive package of benefits removes the candidate’s obligation to find coverage on his/her own. At Blue Mountain we provide:
- A very rich health benefits plan, 50% employer paid
- Company paid dental, STD, LTD, Life and Vision
- Section 125 Premium Only Plan, which enables pre-tax employee contributions
- Section 125 Flexible spending arrangement for pre-tax out of pocket medical costs
- Annual Christmas parties at the owner’s house, catered by a professional chef and staff. We also have Christmas gift checks as well as drawings for gifts that have ranged from $50 to over $11,000.
- Spot bonuses for a job well done
- Social chats on the phone—we become involved in employee’s lives and mentor them when asked
- Lunches and dinners
- Long Term Care Insurance
- Flexibility with working hours, leave and carryover leave
4. Provide Strong Leadership and Commitment
Do what you say that you are going to do. As the head of an organization, you must be comfortable within yourself before you can convey your thoughts calmly, yet decisively to others. Consistency in this regard is key to building a strong foundation of trust.
5. Flatten the Management Hierarchy
Valuable employees quit because they have problems with management. As a small organization, Blue Mountain provides an organizational chain of command where everyone reports to the owner as the line manager. Staff then report to a project manager who is responsible for customer deliverables. This gives each team member direct communication with the person that pays their salary, while also remaining responsible to project managers for their work product. This structure works for small organizations, but the strategy can be revisited as companies grow.
6. Adopt a Team Culture
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your staff members is the key to forming cohesive groups within your organization. Pairing people who compliment each other’s skillsets strikes a balance that is sure to last. Create tasking where individuals will constantly achieve success. Do not create situations that set up individuals for potential failure.
7. Communicate Expectations Clearly
Conveying clear-cut tasks, goals, and objectives promotes a seamless exchange of information and ideas between management and staff. This will alleviate misunderstandings, frustrations, and stress, thereby saving time and increasing productivity.
8. Listen to Your Staff
Fostering direct communication permits team members to share ideas freely, and lets them know that management is listening to them. Providing a structure that offers staff the autonomy to select their own solutions to solve problems also conveys trust that the job will get done. Personal involvement and investment in a project promotes ownership, which helps to achieve success.
9. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Receiving accurate, quality work from your staff is better achieved when staff does not have to adhere to the demands of (1) being at work at a specific time, (2) worrying about making too many personal phone calls or searching the internet, and (3) conforming to a certain dress code.
10. Promote Work/Life Balance
We all have commitments and obligations outside of our work duties to which we must attend. Allowing flexible schedules, e.g., telecommuting, comp time, etc. where applicable, alleviates stress and will allow staff to concentrate on the matter at hand when executing job duties.
11. Have Staff Wear Multiple Hats
Technical staff members possess individual skillsets that they bring to your organization. Offering a variety of tasks and responsibilities helps to keep staff engaged and motivated.
12. Boost Independence
Management should meet with staff regularly to set expectations and deadlines, as well as to listen to progress briefings and problem alerts. This will allow team members to work independently with little interruption, and further conveys trust. Open lines of communication avoids surprises with deliverables and timelines.
13. Allow Brainstorming and Independent Problem Solving
Permit developers to select their own solutions when solving problems. Sometimes this means enlisting the help of other team members to collaborate on projects. This will solidify the team and generate ideas that may not otherwise have surfaced.
14. Foster Synergy with your Customers
All parties involved on projects should interact freely so that all are kept in the loop. Communication between staff and customers, pairs names with faces, creating an integrated team that takes ownership of the problem, boosts cohesiveness, and focuses on doing a great job for the customer.
15. Be Transparent
Always be honest regarding customer feedback and in conveying company/management information. Provide constructive criticism when needed, but also remember to reward a job well done (e.g. praise and spot bonuses). Operating with integrity promotes the same from your team members.
16. Provide Training and Professional Development
Keeping up with technology is a must if your organization wants to retain as many technical staff members as possible. Allocate funds in your budgets for certifications, refresher courses, and new subjects, as applicable. Tuition assistance also entices professional staff to stay with your organization.