Talented IT employees don't leave when they're satisfied at work. If you're experiencing higher-than-normal turnover, job frustration is likely the reason. According to a recent Robert Half Technology survey, you may be losing top performers, not necessarily because they want more money, but because they're unable to get ahead where they are. In our work with clients, we often hear them mention five sources of discontentment among tech employees that are consistent with what the survey uncovered. Here's a look at them -- and at what you can do to help your team sidestep these situations.
1. Few opportunities for advancement
The top source of job frustration, cited by 45% of surveyed IT workers, is feeling stagnant in their career. If they can't move up in-house, they'll seek opportunities elsewhere, especially in this competitive hiring climate. But don't confuse "opportunity for advancement" with "getting on the management track." Not every tech professional is cut out to oversee staff.
To keep IT talent engaged and satisfied, find out their career goals. If they're interested in management, get them the training, mentoring, and practical experience they need. But if they don't have the desire or temperament to be a boss, show them what their non-managerial career path could look like. Advancement for this group could include:
- A title upgrade -- for example, from associate to director.
- New responsibilities, such as heading up an additional project.
- Mentoring junior employees. Mentoring is very different from supervising, so this could be a fit even for those not inclined toward managing.
2. Unmanageable workload
We all know tech workers put in crazy hours to push out code changes and new products. But to prevent burnout, don't let this heightened level be the norm. Keep workloads manageable by:
- Not delaying hiring, so open positions don't sit vacant for too long.
- Fighting for additional IT positions when business grows.
- Bringing in temporary skilled professionals for short-term projects to take some of the burden off your full-time employees.
3. Few chances to learn new skills
The mantra of the IT industry is constant change, and workers need to keep up. The best staffers know they need not only to stay abreast of changes in their own fields, but also to gain knowledge in hot specialties like security, big data, and mobile. Four in ten survey respondents (39%) lament that there are few opportunities in their workplace to keep their abilities up-to-date. Here's how to help your staff add to their IT skill set:
- Professional development, be it in-house or outsourced. Promote these opportunities during orientation, all-company meetings, and annual evaluations. If your organization has a tuition-reimbursement program, remind workers they can work toward a relevant degree partially or wholly on the company's dime.
- Shadow more experienced staff. If a Web designer shows interest in mobile interfaces, for example, ask your mobile app developer to show this person the ropes.
- Encouraging the pursuit of an IT certification is another way to help your staff advance professionally and keep them engaged
4. Not empowered to make decisions
Another job frustration, cited by 37% of respondents, is feeling like they have to ask permission before acting. I've found the best way to empower staff is to get out of their way so they can do what they do best. To create such a culture:
- Don't micromanage. If you're used to dropping by desks every day to "check in," then stop. Give your staff breathing room to innovate and take risks.
- Encourage teamwork. Let employees bounce ideas off one another instead of always coming to you to see whether X or Y would be okay.
- Don't punish risk-taking. When you empower your staff, there will be times when someone will make a mistake. But instead of assigning blame, as a team analyze how and why the problem occurred, and make it a learning experience.
5. Don't see eye-to-eye with the manager
Tying for fourth place is conflicts with management. This is one frustration that you may not be able to do much about, since part of your job is to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. The keys to good employer-employee relations:
- Communicate -- Explain the reasons for corporate actions, in both one-on-one meetings and group settings.
- Listen -- If you don't know the concerns of your team, you can't address them.
- Be available -- Let your staff know you want to hear their concerns, and that they can come to you without fear of reprisal.
- Don't let job frustration drive away your top performers. For a happy and productive staff, ask them what stands in the way of workplace satisfaction, and resolve to fix those issues in the new year. What are some of the factors you see driving good employees away? What are some ways your organization promotes work satisfaction among employees?
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