How to Recruit and Retain Your IT Talent

Updated on July 6, 2019
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Hanh has a Master's Degree in Economics. She enjoys researching and writing about economic and business issues.

Attrition in the IT Job Market

The IT labor market remains one of the most competitive segments of the labor market. According to a 2018 report by Glassdoor, about 8 out of the 25 highest paying jobs are IT-related jobs, such as Java developer, software developer, UX designer, solution architect and so on. Nonetheless, the IT industry faces serious attrition rates. A study by LinkedIn revealed that the IT industry has the highest turnover rate of 13 percent, followed by retail and consumer industry, media and entertainment, and professional services[1].

Generally, attrition greatly affects a company’s bottom line, productivity and organizational culture. However, for tech companies, the impacts are even worse due to the risks of disclosing confidential information, security, and intellectual properties. In addition, talented tech individuals have high bargaining power and they are in very high demand. Therefore, most IT companies invest a lot in their recruitment and employee retention strategies and programs. Here are some tips to consider if you want to recruit and maintain your staff for the long term.

Recruitment
Recruitment

Recruitment

Recruitment and talent acquisition are crucial to selecting the most suitable candidates for the organization for both short-term and long-term. To recruit talent, the human resource department has to do short-term and long-term resource planning for the whole company to decide which skills and positions are needed in the present and the near future aligning with the company’s development and expansion plan. Most IT companies emphasize loyalty and often skip employees with a history of job hopping . In addition, due to confidentiality, intellectual protection and other legal complications, hiring people who have recently dropped out of competing companies can involve very sensitive issues. Depending on the needs of a company’s current and future projects, certain combinations of technical skills such as programming languages and soft skills are needed. Moreover, many IT companies use headhunting services to identify the best match. Although the charge for these services is high, with the fierce competition in this industry, such services are particularly important, especially to fill top management positions.

Culture Fit

Culture fit is best described as the match between a prospective employee and the company in terms of values, belief, and behaviors. A company’s culture is made up of a variety of written and unwritten underlying assumptions, hierarchy, codes of conduct, languages, decision-making process, and practices. If a new hire cannot adjust to a new organization’s culture, he or she will quickly leave for a new company. Due to the IT field's high requirements for loyalty, creativity, innovation, working intensity and collaboration, many IT companies have unique cultures with their own anniversaries, rituals, festivals, and practices. The more established the company is, the more well-developed its culture becomes. Hence, it is very important that the new hires accept and fit in well with the culture.

The Onboarding Process

According to a research, more than 40 percent of turnovers occurred within the first month of employment[2]. Therefore, the onboarding process should be able to engage employees and motivate them from the first dates of their work. Onboarding is a process to help new hires become acquainted with the company’s expectations and culture and their new colleagues. During the process, the line manager sets clear expectations from both sides for the employees, outlining their roles and responsibilities, and a timeline for proper onboarding, usually about two months or more for most companies. During the period, feedback meetings can be established so that the new employees and their managers can discuss any new arising issues and readjust the expectations if necessary.

In terms of implementation, there are different approaches for companies to adopt. For examples, some companies utilize a “sink or swim” approach to force new hires explore and learn about the new culture on their own. On the other hand, other companies use a systematic onboarding approach with a series of lectures, presentations, meetings and networking activities such as company lunches, dinners, etc. to give opportunities for new hires to get to know their co-workers and work environment.

Fair Compensation and Benefit Package

As competitive as the IT industry is, there is always an attractive offer waiting elsewhere for talented professionals. Moreover, in the IT field there are many forums, websites and other platforms for people to share and learn about other companies’ compensation and benefits. Therefore, employers should be fair in designing their compensation and benefit packages, which should be commensurate with employees’ skills and experiences. In addition, the salary range should be broad enough so that those with good performance can receive adequate and timely rewards. Most companies have 1 or 2 yearly salary reviews. Common benefits in IT companies include bonuses, healthcare insurance packages, paid leaves (vacation, parental and sick leaves), sports activities, gym or club memberships, company cars, company-sponsored events/ trips, schooling for employees’ children, and referral benefits. Additionally, with long working hours and the exacting nature of the job, many IT employees appreciate small perks offered at the office such as coffee, tea and snacks.

Career Advancement Opportunities

A lack of professional growth opportunities is often cited as a top reason for people to leave a job. After working at a company for some time, most people become used to their daily tasks and regard their work as mostly routine. As IT is one of the fastest moving industries in the world, what developers fear the most is falling behind the latest technologies. More often than not, the best developers only accept jobs that help them grow and utilize the latest technologies. Unfortunately, for some companies, due to corporate strategies such as low-cost software processing or a low-end customer base, there are few incentives for the employers to move up the value chain and invest in the employees. Consequently, people only stay for several projects, earn some work experience and move on to other higher value-added companies. A company in this situation can try to rotate its workforce on a regular basis, to promote its employees vertically and support them to learn from other colleagues. Furthermore, the company should provide fast-track promotion for those who perform well and contribute positively to the company.

Mentoring/Counseling Programs

Most of the IT workforce comes from Generation Z, people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. While technologically savvy, they are often quite young, inexperienced and impressionable. Besides, IT jobs are very diverse and constantly evolving with quite some gaps between schooling and real-life job requirements. In addition, many IT training programs only focus on technical knowledge and ignore soft skills such as languages, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills. Hence, it is very important that companies offer mentoring or counseling programs to address these needs. The program can be an official and mandatory program, or an informal program with senior employees being encouraged to offer advice and counseling unofficially.

The Workplace Environment

Although remote working has become more popular in the IT industry, it is still common for people to work together at a physical location. According to a survey among Indian companies[3], employees prefer a relaxed and open office with no dress codes and in-office recreation facilities such as a gym or café. Innovative and inspirational office designs with green space and relaxing areas can enhance productivity and boost employees’ mood. What’s more, outdoor activities such as sports and camping are also among the favorite activities and improve team spirit among company employees. Most people also appreciate opportunities to work from home or remotely and flexible working hours so that they can maintain their work-life balance.

In sum, high employee retention is key to a healthy company. Understanding what employees value is very important in designing attractive and useful compensation and benefit packages and a productive working environment.

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