Retaining tech talent: Career growth is more than just changing job titles

Retaining tech talent is almost as much of a priority right now as hiring tech talent. As the talent market becomes more and more competitive, employers are finding themselves at risk of poaching. There are currently job ads being posted every day with even more competitive salaries, benefits and challenges to entice tech talent to leave their current positions. With the tech talent pool growing more limited, passive candidates who work for competitors are becoming the primary targets for recruiters. Therefore, employers have to work even harder to hold onto the talented people they have.

To retain talent, you need to consider their desires and priorities. Often, the idea of career growth and progression is one of the main motivations for both joining and staying at a workplace. Employees want a company that they can grow with, and that will help them to achieve their career goals in the long run. If years go by with no signs of progression or opportunities to learn, employees will eventually get bored and understandably seek a new challenge. In comparison, a workplace that builds up its teams and believes in its employees, giving them chances to progress, will have a more positive employer brand.

For one thing, retention rates will be higher, which looks much more impressive to candidates. Also, employees will have growth stories that they can share as part of your employer brand communication strategy. However, most importantly, if you invest time in your team and provide them with more opportunities to grow, they’ll think more highly of you, be more loyal and will be full of praise.

Therefore, prioritising career growth should be at the top of the agenda for businesses looking to hold onto their tech talent.

However, it’s important to remember that career growth isn’t just a new, fancier job title. Often, job titles are awarded to employees with no real change in their day-to-day role in smaller, scaling businesses. Suddenly they find themselves as managers with no teams to manage. Or, they are promoted to a more senior position that finally matches the workload they already have and the tasks they’ve been doing already. In some cases, weird and wonderful job titles are created to give the illusion of progression, but no one in the industry knows what they mean. 

Changing job titles is a huge part of a promotion, but it’s often used as a tactic to create the impression of career progression when in reality, very little changes. This won’t fool employees, who will still be bored. And therefore, it will still harm your employer brand. Employees always see through the smoke and mirrors eventually.

So, how can scaling businesses prioritise career growth in a genuine way that positively impacts their employer brand?

Prioritise Learning

Learning and development is key to retaining talent right now, and with remote learning, it couldn’t be easier. Many have taken the downtime of the pandemic to think about the skills they need to progress in their career or even to change direction. Plus, many employers are currently struggling to fill specific skills gaps, especially in the tech industry. Therefore learning and development can benefit both individual employees and workplaces.

Studies show that 40% of employees who don’t receive training will leave their positions in the first year, and if you think of the employees that have been with a company for even longer, they’ll be itching to progress. The truth is that learning a new skill or improving your existing ones is a much better way to progress in a career than changing job titles. The skills and knowledge employees can gain are invaluable and can help employees complete more tasks and responsibilities. This will eventually lead to promotions or higher positions elsewhere. In addition, they’ll feel more equipped to progress in their career, and you’d be amazed what a more substantial knowledge base can do for employees’ confidence.

Create personalised objectives and plans

Every employee is different; they have different motivations and ambitions. Therefore, progression will not look the same to all of them. For startups and scaleups, teams should be small enough to treat everyone as an individual and offer them personalised objectives and growth plans. Take into consideration the skills they wish to develop, where they see themselves in the future, as well as what will be beneficial to your business as it scales. Doing this can enable you to create a personalised growth plan and objectives for each individual, helping them achieve their goals practically. Some individuals may benefit from an online course, while others may need hands-on experience to progress, like managing another team member. Each employee’s progress will be completely different based on their future goals; there isn’t an online course for everything.

This may be more difficult for larger organisations, but it’s still doable. By having a wide range of development resources available and managers taking an individual interest in their team’s growth, progression can still feel tailored to an employee. Objectives should always be tailored to a job role and an individual’s ambitions; not all tech talent want to become managers of teams. Some people would rather reskill or upskill rather than perfect the use of outdated technologies.

Making progression more personalised has a significant influence on employer branding. It shows employers care about an individuals goals, and they aren’t just being thrown on a management course to ensure longevity with the company or to support business goals. Your career is personal, and it’s all about you; therefore, employers need to put the employee at the centre of their learning and development.

Allow them to explore different business areas

If you’re a scaling tech business, you have the advantage of being a lot more agile and flexible. You can improve employee engagement and development by allowing them to take on new tasks and explore different areas of the business easily. You can encourage cross-department collaboration and give individuals experience working in new areas. This may help them better understand what they can do in the future, any skills they may wish to learn, and any alternative career paths they may want to pursue. In larger businesses, this is more tricky, but creating a culture of collaboration is still achievable and can help your employees see that there are opportunities beyond their current role. In addition, a collaborative and united business is excellent for employer branding. Being able to tell stories of employees who have successfully progressed by moving around your business will help improve your employer brand image in the eyes of candidates.

Give real promotions

Promotions are not just a change in job title. If you’re going to promote someone, it means giving extra responsibilities and challenges to feed the career hungry. Individuals who crave career progression won’t be happy with a new job title if nothing changes; it’s more about the progress they can make personally than a few words on a CV.

Promotions should be earned and celebrated and a signifier that an employee is ready to take the next step in their career, not just that you’re trying to hold onto them. If you have clear objectives and development plans, it’s easy to identify when a promotion is earned and the right time to offer it out. It means that employees have an idea of what they need to work towards and what their additional responsibilities will be in their new role. This prepares them for the extra responsibilities and gives them a clear track of progression.

Giving out a promotion or a job title change when someone wants to leave you isn’t a great way to fuel progression, and it can significantly damage your employer brand. Why is an employee-only valuable to you when you’re about to lose them? This attitude doesn’t make them feel appreciated or reflect well on you as an employer. Instead, show them they’re valuable and capable of more in your organisation through helping them to progress, setting clear objectives and investing in opportunities to learn more.

Talent Works help companies to take a deep dive into company culture through our extensive research function. Using both quantitative and qualitative research backed by some of the UK’s leading employer brand research professionals, we’re able to help scaling tech companies from startups to household names build EVPs and employer brands that improve their talent acquisition strategies.

We use many different tried and tested research methods to gain an accurate view of your company culture from employees at all levels and external candidates. We can also use our research tools to explore your industry and decipher how your employer brand measures up to the competition. This research can then be used to build Employee Value Propositions and Employer Brand awareness campaigns that appeal to relevant candidates whilst telling an authentic and engaging story.

To learn more about how our advanced research function can help your business to attract and retain talent, contact us.