Over the years, great technology companies have made their presence known through their many appearances on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. And in this week’s announcement of the 30 Best Workplaces in Technology, it's easy to examine the cream of the crop in the industry even more closely. Technology companies have come a long way toward figuring out the “secret sauce” of creating organizations that are both high performance and high trust—thereby enabling sustainably awesome results. And, they are winning the war for talent. All of that sounds great, right?
Well, on the surface that is absolutely true. Technology companies are seeing record profits, and, in many ways, are controlling the narrative of how business gets done globally. And for the most part, they are aware that the key to success is their people, and many are creating organizations and environments that align to that belief. Given their seemingly unimpeded climb to global dominance as an industry and their growing reputation as world-class employers, what could tech companies possibly have to worry about?
The truth is, technology is vital to the success of almost every company in every industry. Whether it’s healthcare, retail, or any other industry, the constant is they need technology employees—really badly. To this end, talent acquisition folks and technology/IT hiring managers from non-tech companies are coming for the employees that technology companies have worked hard to recruit and develop.
According to a recent study, there were 667,200 tech occupational job openings in Q4 2014—and those were in tech and non-tech companies. If the gap between the vast number of technical job openings and the lack of college graduates with technical degrees to fill them persists, the only solution for companies who need tech talent is to go where the technology employees are: tech companies.
Based on the recent Best Workplaces in Technology list findings, there are some keys factors that the very best tech organizations utilize to develop a high-performance, high-trust organization. But what about the thousands of other tech companies that cannot boast such incredible workplace cultures? Truth be told, they should be worried. Whether they’re in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, or Austin, non-tech companies are aiming to snatch their most important resource: their people. So what can a company do to limit the potential brain drain?
- Have a clear path for advancement and growth in the organization
It sounds simple and fairly obvious, yet the number of companies that don’t have career paths and opportunities for ongoing development is astonishing. Almost more than any other field, it is imperative that tech professionals are able to see where their careers might take them and how they might learn whatever the next great skill or language might be. Don’t think you have the time to spend on career development conversations? Imagine how much time you won’t have if your critical tech staff leaves.
- Have a defined point of view on compensation
Technology employees, generally, are higher-paid. But the answer to keeping them isn’t just to raise salaries across the board. That is a zero-sum game. There is always going to be someone that pays more.
Have a clear definition of your compensation position:
- Where do you intend to fall in terms of pay for the industry? There is no right answer, but the key is to have an answer that best fits your organization’s culture and practices.
- What does compensation include?
- What opportunities might be afforded to employees in terms of advancement and working on new initiatives? For example, do you give the best projects to employees or contractors?
- What is the career cache that an employee can get by working for your brand? The days of a lifelong employee are pretty much gone. But, employees will work for companies that are known as innovators simply for the experience. Think about what someone would say about seeing your company on an employee’s resume. Would they say,“Wow you worked at _______” or “Who is that?”
- Have a purpose that is clear and desirable, then do things to forward it
Tech employees, like most employees, want to know that they are working toward something that makes a difference. Purpose is one of the areas that every company on the Best Workplaces lists has. But it is not enough to have just a stated purpose. It must be something that is woven into deciding what projects are being funded, who is being hired, and how people are promoted.
Operating this way will help to identify the kinds of people who are a great fit for the organization and can be a huge reason they will stay, even when offered more money to go somewhere else.
Anil Saxena is a partner at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and other best workplaces lists, including the 30 Best Workplaces in Technology.