competing for tech staff

Competing Against Tech Giants: How Smaller Companies Can Keep Their Staff

By Mariano Stampella

Say the word poach to the founder of a tech company, and they’re sure to cringe. In today’s competitive tech field, high developer churn rates are a big concern, and many organizations live in constant fear of having their best talent lured away by sexier, higher paying companies.

And we’re not just talking pocket change. Take in that Netflix, for example, hooked new talent with a median raise of 167 percent – this brought the average developer from earning $130,815 at their previous position, to a whopping $329,174 at the content giant. Universities can’t keep hold of their vital AI and machine learning professors, either. This even includes Stanford, which apparently has very little of its core AI faculty left.

So as this trend continues, how can smaller tech companies expect to hold on to their most talented workers? Here’s how to win against the giants when competing for tech staff.

Give Developers Interesting Projects that Support Personal Growth

If a developer isn’t excited to come to work each day, they won’t think twice if offered a seemingly better job elsewhere. It’s important that companies sit down with each employee to understand what makes them tick, and devise a way to shape each developer’s role accordingly.

Ask employees about what industries interest them. If they’re experts in driverless cars or virtual reality, why not find projects in those markets? Showing developers you care about giving them the opportunity to work on projects they find compelling not only keeps them engaged, but also increases their loyalty to the company.

It’s also imperative to give employees learning opportunities — whether it be through these interesting projects, concrete training, or hackathons outside of the workplace. At current, it’s something companies are taking pretty seriously — according to the Association for Talent Development’s 2017 State of the Industry Report, companies dropped $1,273 per worker on learning initiatives in 2016.

Considering 46 percent of employees say having limited learning opportunities is the reason they’re bored at work, it’s understandable that companies are spending big bucks to keep their employees engaged. And if you think a company’s interest in employee growth isn’t enough to keep them around when another company comes knocking, take it from a developer himself. It is.

Provide a Balanced Work-Life and Travel Opportunities

A significantly higher salary often brings significantly longer hours. At big tech companies, many employees tend to work upward of 40 hour weeks, or way more if there’s a deadline approaching. However these days, 58 percent of millennials would choose a position with a strong work-life balance over one that offers financial benefits. Offering developers plenty of time for themselves will make them think twice about jumping ship.

Our company roots are based in Europe, so we’ve taken inspiration from this work culture to provide developers in the U.S., Latin America and across the world with a strong work-life balance. For example, all overtime is approved or rejected in advance — and if an employee does work longer, they’re given the time as vacation at a later date. We also offer longer vacation time, flexible work hours, and healthy perks such as meditation or massage time when employees are in the office.

To increase loyalty and retention, companies should also strongly consider providing developers with international travel opportunities. Whether a developer travels to China to speak at a conference, or takes a trip to Canada to build relationships with potential clients, travel opportunities not only help developers to grow professionally, but also show employees that they’re important at the company, and are trusted to be the face of the brand.

Have Strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Projects

Today, 55 percent of millennials are willing to earn less money to work for a company that makes a difference in the world. To give developers a sense of purpose, give them active roles in CSR projects.

But remember, these projects don’t have to be an added task on top of an employee’s already heavy workload. Companies have the opportunity to seek out clients that make a community impact so that CSR projects are incorporated into a developer’s duties. This can be on a pro-bono, or paid basis. Think developing an app that helps deliver clean water to areas that need it, or a data-driven platform to help soup kitchens reduce food waste.

Companies can also consider encouraging employees to take part in initiatives such as Developers For Good, which features hackathons for engineers to design platforms for social change. While this would be on their own time, CSR projects like these do help an employee’s personal growth by increasing their problem solving, communication and team work skills.

But whatever CSR initiative the company boasts, it is important that the company follow-through with it. If a company claims it has great CSR outcomes, but in truth does not, employees are more likely to hand in a resignation letter.

So yes, it’d be tempting for anyone not to move companies if they were offered a significant raise. However, developers made to feel like they’re important members of the team, are given plenty of extra breathing room to have great work-life balance, and who feel they’re giving back through CSR projects are a lot more likely to stick around. Because, hey, money isn’t everything.

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Mariano Stampella on Linkedin
Mariano Stampella
Mariano Stampella is responsible for U.S. business development at intive, a software company focused on app development with more than 8 years of experience and 150+ apps.

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