Retaining tech talent in your startup and reducing employee turnover

17 August 2021
employee retention

Employee attrition is a huge talking point right now. As the pandemic has changed employee mindsets and priorities in a whole range of industries, many are having a rethink about their careers and next steps. As many businesses prepare to return to work, many workers are beginning to rethink their current roles, existing companies and are preparing to take a leap of faith.

However, there’s another issue. Employees naturally move on. They may need to move up a pay grade, are relocating, changing careers, or even just looking for a new challenge. It’s natural for people to want to move on at some point. However, due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who would have quit their jobs naturally stayed put; their current position was a safety net in an uncertain jobs market. Now, as we return to normal, these individuals who were ready to move on in the last year are likely to be getting itchy feet. Tech talent right now is in high demand, with more job openings than available talent. As more and more jobs become available, the chances of them leaving the security of their current role are much higher. As we’re in a candidate-driven market, there is far less risk involved for tech and knowledge-based candidates. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that a record 4 million people left their jobs in April 2021, which is the highest number since they started collecting the data. In the current market, we can only expect these numbers to increase.

When you’re a startup, the candidate-driven market creates more talent acquisition and retention challenges than most businesses. With so many companies competing for the same technical talent, it’s increasingly difficult for growing businesses to match salary offers and the reputation of large-scale enterprises. As a result, tech candidates are in high demand are probably being contacted by recruiters every day. These tech candidates are tempted by these “sexy” offerings with high salaries or impressive names to add to their resumes. With so little available talent, your existing teams are more likely to be enticed by these offers. Can you really afford to lose your best developers, data scientists and tech talent?

In a scaling business, your teams make or break you. It would help if you were surrounded by dedicated people who are passionate about your mission. However, in a tech business, you also need key skills and knowledge to innovate and grow your offering. Therefore, any loss of staff is felt more deeply than in a large-scale enterprise, and therefore attrition is more of a threat to smaller businesses.

So, how can you reduce employee turnover in your startup and retain your core people?

Conduct a survey

The primary way to ensure that you’re retaining talent is to make sure that they’re happy. The secret to employee engagement is understanding their concerns and strengths. Employees who feel their voices are heard and concerns are being met will be more likely to stay at their place of work. The simplest way to do this is to conduct a survey; that way, you’ll be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses as an employer, giving every employee a chance to feedback. Anonymity is key if you want honest responses, as adding names will alter the authenticity. This will help you to identify the critical pain points which could be the reason your team members are leaving. Your surveys can cover engagement, onboarding, company culture, diversity and inclusion, as well as potential reasons for leaving.

Speak to employees about their priorities

As well as an anonymous survey, speaking to employees could really help your retention efforts, especially in a startup where teams are small. Engaging in honest conversations about their future goals and priorities could help you form longer-lasting relationships. You can help with their development and even ensure your approach to work suits their lifestyle. Scaling businesses can be more flexible and agile compared to larger enterprises, which means aspects like flexible working for those with small children or investing in a training course for those who wish to progress and develop certain skills is a much simpler endeavour. If your team know you have their best interests and future goals in mind, they’ll be more likely to stay as the sense of loyalty will be mutual.

Have a clear return-to-work plan

Right now, everyone has a preference about the future of work and whether they return to the office. Some people love working from home and the flexibility it brings, but others find it isolating and prefer to work in a team. Employers cannot afford to be hesitant in their plans, or employees will look for work elsewhere. If employees enjoy being 100% remote and you can’t promise this will be permanent for your business, they aren’t going to wait around for you to make up your mind. What founders and leadership teams need to do, is think realistically about what their team prefers and what will work best for their business. This may not please everyone, but it will ensure that all future hires are clear on your policies and avoid an attrition crisis in the future.

Prioritise employee development

Lack of career growth and disappointment with the role have been identified as two key reasons employees leave their jobs. In a growing business, you have the opportunity to really invest in your employees, as it will benefit you too. Train them in new skills, give them the chance to learn new responsibilities on the job and put their development at the forefront of your mind. This proactive approach will help you retain employees as they can see a future with you, but it could also help with your future recruitment efforts. You’ll be able to identify your future leaders, promote from within and build up employee loyalty which could be vital for your startup. Make any internal opportunities and potential to pivot possible and prioritise each employees ambitions and goals. This will improve your employer brand and company culture, as your employees will think highly of you.

Create an inclusive working environment

Diversity is a huge issue in the tech industry, with a huge push to get more minority candidates and females into STEM roles. Often, these employees can leave if they feel isolated, alone or singled out. Creating an inclusive company culture means that a diverse range of talent can thrive. Everyone should feel that they have the chance to grow with you and develop their careers. People want to work in an open-minded and inclusive space, and those startups that can provide it will get access to a larger pool of talent and retain their existing teams. If employees from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and genders can thrive in your organisation and choose to stay with you for a long time, then you stand a greater chance of attracting diverse talent in the future.

Refine your EVP for 2022

As we keep saying, attitudes to work are changing. Candidates priorities are changing, and so are those of your employees. If you still expect the same Employee Value Proposition you were using in 2019 to connect with candidates and employees in the post-pandemic world, then you may be surprised. It’s not just what you offer employees, from benefits to culture but about those emotional drivers. Motivations for work have changed and therefore, so have reasons for staying with an employer. Plus, it’s not just what you offer your team but the language and tone which you choose to describe it. The world has undergone a huge cultural shift, with Black Lives Matter, The Climate Crisis and the pandemic shifting priorities, values and attitudes. Your EVP needs to be in line with what talent care about, and if it’s not updated to suit their needs and concerns, you may run the risk of looking like an outdated company, especially in the eyes of Millennial and Gen Z talent. This could lead to high attrition rates as team members move to companies more in line with their ways of thinking. Therefore, you should think carefully about your existing EVP and involve your team in its development. It will help your retention and future talent acquisition to do this.

At Talent Works, we help companies of all sizes to create relevant and relatable EVPs, including refining existing value propositions to meet changing attitudes. Through in-depth research methods, we’re able to get to the bottom of the strengths and challenges your company culture presents and create messaging that will bring your employee value proposition and employer brand to life. These messages can then be used throughout your digital attraction and tech recruitment to help you connect with top talent.

If you’d like advice or to learn more about how our flexible approach to RPO could your future recruitment efforts as well as employee retention, contact us today.

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