There’s a bazillion articles out there on employee retention the last time I stopped counting. Tech employees are slightly different. Without further ado:
1: They’re Unhappy.
Tada. This is why people leave.
Tech folk are a bit like cats, and herding cats is not an easy task. People want different things. If you don’t know what the individuals want, you’ve already identified your first problem.
You can’t and should not please everyone.
You might be amazed at how easy it is to retain employees if you simply listen and react appropriately – and bear in mind that the rest of the team is paying attention and taking note.
1a: Hot And Cold
If there is no respite, if it’s a matter of going from one thing to another, running hot on projects behind schedules and cold on new things, you’re encountering basic physics. Constant expansion and contraction is not good for anything, particularly people. The larger the gradient between hot and cold, the more likely you’re going to lose people. This is part and parcel of a Culture of Fear.
1b: Unfair Treatment
You might like to think that you’re treating everyone equally, but your team might see it otherwise. If one person throws a tantrum and gets what they want – be it a supply of Coke products or an office – expect the rest of the team to either learn the lesson or begin disapproving of management (if they haven’t already).
Further, if you ride one person hard but let another get away with murder, you’re asking for it. While you may have higher expectations of one or the other, inconsistency in how the team is treated fractures the team.
1c: Rewarding Jerks
When you reward someone who is not a team player and is constantly creating friction, and when they get away with just about anything, it’s a matter of time before either (a)people start acting like jerks or (b) they pack up their toys and go home.
If you find yourself in a position where you have to pick between two employees, it’s already too late and you should be wondering how that happened in the first place.
Bear in mind, treating a jerk and someone who is not a jerk the same when dealing with an altercation gives the jerk the high ground. Do that consistently, expect the non-jerk to walk. Maybe just spontaneously one day.
If you can’t identify a jerk, you have much larger problems. If you like the jerk, you’re a jerk – and if you don’t like the jerk and keep the jerk, you’re a jerk. Embrace it and stop reading here.
1d: Bad Priorities
You (hopefully) hired smart people, and while you may not show your cards, people can discern bad priorities when they see them – or worse, they can believe that it is a bad priority because your organization lacks the transparency for them to see it as good.
Tech folks generally like to feel like they are doing something of worth.
1e: Not Involving the Team in Big Decisions
This doesn’t mean that the team has to agree on everything, but if it’s a decision on how something will be done across the team, get input from the team as a whole. And if you have people who steal oxygen from meetings, make sure they don’t monopolize the time or frame things such that it’s their way or not.
1f: Lack of Growth
If you’ve hired people who don’t want to grow or help the team in greater ways, you hired wrong and you have larger problems. This is not to be confused with the Empire Builders – those that harden their position and are constantly finding ways to make themselves relevant in places where other team members might be greater assets.
1g: Influence Issues
Someone who has developed influence in your organization by hard work and perseverance is an asset, and while they will likely be resistant to changes you want to implement, if you leave them out of Big Decisions (see 1e) you may well be shooting yourself in the foot. If they don’t get upset, or suddenly stop becoming upset, they’re on their way out – which may or may not be good.
If you have someone who has accepted increasing responsibility, knows how things work that you don’t understand and has gotten in front of problems… you may not appreciate them because they’ve kept the flames from creating the tell-tale smoke signals. Unfortunately, when you smell smoke after they leave or just before they leave, it’s too late – so pay attention to how people get in front of problems.
Yeah, money had to make it in here somewhere but I purposefully left it down here as the last one. Why? Because if people are having trouble making ends meet they WILL look. If your tech people are having that problem, that’s a big glaring issue you will pay for if you don’t pay for.
Money isn’t as much of an issue as people make it out to be – the people who just want more money will likely leave anyway when they get a better offer, and you might be better off without them.
By the time someone starts comparing salaries, they’ve already decided to start looking. Even if you pay them more, they’re likely to leave anyway – except the unicorns. They do exist and typically negotiate more than money.