It can’t be overstated but the last 18 months have seen momentous change when it comes to tech adoption by organisations regardless of size and sector. To quote an old Soviet saying, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” and we’ve seen companies take huge strides forward.
However, supporting this technology drives requires expertise and, unless you’ve been living on Mars, you’ve probably heard of ‘The Great Resignation’ – the incredible post-Covid churn that we’re seeing in the industry. IT was already the industry with the greatest turnover in the world, but the situation is escalating. Studies have found that 41% of people in tech are considering moving employers within the next year and the average tenure of a technologist is starting to shrink. Combine this with Covid-19 pressing fast-forward on the digital transformation agenda and the widening skills gap with roles going unfilled, even at inflated salaries.
We have to admit that this is a problem and a significant one. Without technologists, no software is going to be delivered, and if you’re in the digital world, this could be disastrous. Some of the biggest threats of this churn include:
- Lack of consistency: Teams thrive on some level of stability. Low-level turnover (up to 15%) can be healthy for keeping the life-blood of innovation flowing, but when you get to above 25% things start to feel like a revolving door
- Inefficiency: As the average tenure starts to dip below a year, factoring in onboarding, gaining context and then notice periods, you’ll be lucky to get six months’ of quality time out of an employee – this is bad value for money
- Reduced availability: Outside of London, you’ll quickly deforest areas of seniors if they leave on bad terms. We can’t just 3D print new developers; a good organisation should have a blend of roles to allow for best-practice development
But what do technologists really want? There’s no one size fits all. However, technologists consistently value compensation and benefits, a stable team and leadership, clear career pathway, company and industry visibility, industry growth and sustainability, as well as access to community, coaching and mentoring, to name a few.
The question is then: how can organisations meet these needs and reshape their vision for tech and the people that drive it, ahead of a post-pandemic era?
- Create empowerment within your technologist teams, let them feel like they can make decisions. The “code factories” of the early 2000’s showed that developers hate being on a production line
- Make them feel invested, not just involved. Many organisations keep their boards and senior leadership to a certain type of demographic, but when the world is becoming more technology-focused, we would benefit from technologists at the top
- Ask them for their feedback, and do it often, before it’s too late. Exit interviews are good for finding some problems, but don’t wait until people leave to find out
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- Bring the tech to the fore. We love technology, so don’t make us work with outdated systems, code-bases or development kits. A small investment in more productive technologies can vastly improve developer happiness and performance, it’s a win-win situation
- Encourage creativity in your technologists. People lean heavily on the logical and analytical skills, but technologists are often very creative. Encourage them to experiment, innovate and be part of the design process
- Keep the challenge fresh. Encourage mobility in technologies, projects, clients and even roles. I learned a lot by being a QA Lead on a project earlier in my career and although I’m not an expert in the various fields I’ve acted in, I’ve picked up lots of context and transferable skills
- Provide clear career pathways, encourage existential flexibility and allow people choices in their own growth. By providing clear progression, technologists can feel like they’re moving their career forward. This is something we’ve acted on via our bespoke Employee Value Proposition (EVP) initiative here at AND
- Encourage a learning environment. Technologists need to keep learning and growing, but can sometimes get too caught in the moment of delivery. Provide mixed media learning opportunities and dedicated upskilling time
- Build a strong and sustainable culture, one that promotes thought leadership in the community, growing others through mentorship and coaching
Creating a culture of Technologist Advocacy
How do we do this without trying to boil the ocean? You create a banner name for these nine items (plus whatever else you’d like to add, there’s much more) and split them out into targeted initiatives. Run them like scientific experiments, measure results (you could consider turnover, progression, survey feedback, for instance) and continue to adapt and observe.
Also, create a culture of Technologist Advocacy in your organisation, ensure that some of your finest and most motivated technologists are batting for ‘Team Technology’ and unafraid to challenge things that aren’t working.
But what will taking these actions achieve? Many think that paying increasing amounts of money is the key, but people only leave for more money once the rest of the proposition has become a disappointment. People are starting to talk about this so it’s important to be a part of the conversation, or you risk being left behind. If you engage, excite and evolve your technologists, you’ll find a much more invested, more sustainable and ultimately more productive team, one that won’t go elsewhere. That is the magic of Technologist Advocacy.
Written by Jeff Watkins, Chief for Technology at AND Digital