Liberate your workforce

Tips to keep talent happy

We reveal 10 ways IT workplaces find and keep the very best tech talent this country has to offer, by becoming employers of choice.

Tips to keep talent happy

Forward thinking companies are finding ways to redirect the $6.2 billion Australian corporations spend on external recruitment services. Rather than spending money looking for the best employees, they are spending money becoming better employers, and getting the best employees to look for them.

Technology companies are particularly deft when it comes to establishing their reputation as employers of choice, and have dominated the rankings of Australia’s Best Places to Work awards since they were launched in 2008.

In fact software developers like Google, Atlassian, NetApp and Salesforce make the top 10 rankings in the BRW list year after year, and have even been described as employer Rock Stars. Rather than actively advertise or recruit, these companies largely rely on reputation to attract excellent staff.

The most successful IT employers “offer more”, but don’t necessarily “pay more”, because they understand that being a great employer is about more than remuneration.

So what is it that these IT employers of choice do differently? Here are the 10 things you need to know in order to find and retain the best IT staff.

1. People like working with people they like

A well-structured employee referral plan can not only drastically reduce the cost of finding talent, it can also help to build internal cohesion.

Mike Hulse, Asia Pacific director of recruitment at hosted software provider, says about 51 percent of new hires come from employee referrals: “It helps us ensure we hire only those people who are the right fit, both for the role for which they’ve applied and for our unique culture,” Hulse says.

2. Creative people get bored easily

The most highly sought after employers use a range of techniques to keep talented, creative staff engaged. Google’s “20 percent time” which allows staff to work on their own creative projects is a perfect example. Other software companies make focus on the innovative nature of the software they produce to win great staff, while the promise of having a chance to work on cutting edge technology will often inspire talented IT staff to change employers.

3. Creative people need freedom

Micromanagement or insisting creative developers comply with pointless bureaucratic tasks is a great way to lose them, according to managers at Optiva, the algorithmic trading software developer which was named Australia’s best place to work in 2013. In response the company does as much as it can to reduce red tape and mundane tasks, so that talented developers can get on with the work they love.

4. Developers don’t like to go hungry

Almost all the top IT employers provide their staff with free food and good coffee, and although it’s pilloried by outsiders, it is a great way to ensure staff arrive early, and share ideas over the breakfast table.

5. People like to make a difference

There’s ample research pointing to a connection between philanthropic activities and employee engagement. In a clever twist many successful IT employers allow staff to dedicate time to a charity or community activity of their own choosing.

Tips to keep talent happy

IT security company NetApp, which consistently makes the top ten employers lists around the world, grants each employee paid charity leave to enable them to dedicate their talents to something they regard as important. According to Gwen McDonald, senior vice president of Human Resources at NetApp, the company’s commitment to philanthropy is a source of pride and inspiration for many of the company’s employees.

“We believe that corporate philanthropy is a source of pride and camaraderie for our employees,” she said.

“As a company, we take creating and maintaining a unique work environment very seriously, and believe in developing programs that encourage giving back to the community.”

We believe that corporate philanthropy is a source of pride and camaraderie for our employees.

6. People need to feel they are part of a community

Although it’s often overlooked, the onboarding process can play a tremendous role in creating a sense of cohesion and camaraderie. The companies which do this best not only make sure new employees sign all their paperwork, but also to make sure they’re comfortable in the new setting.

Companies like Optiva use buddy systems to make sure new staff have someone to answer simple questions – like where’s the closest ATM? Really creative companies also find ways to make the process fun. New staff at software company Atlassian are provided with Nerf guns and funny t-shirts to help them feel at home in the new environment.

7. People like to know what’s going on

According to some of Australia’s best employers, a commitment to authenticity and transparency can make a significant difference to recruitment and retention. Some software companies operate what they call a classic open-door policy, others use statements like “ask anyone, anything, anytime”, to indicate a high level of responsiveness to questions and ideas.

At Salesforce, Hulse says the company’s commitment to authenticity and transparency is a great way to keep talented employees committed to their work.

8. People like to move forward, or at least sideways

One of the most important elements of staff retention is based upon whether or not employees see an opportunity to take on new challenges and expand their career. Companies which provide staff with a clear career progression, and routinely recruit internally for new roles, are less likely to lose good staff to competitors.

9. People are people

Companies that recognise that staff have important commitments outside of work invariably score more highly when it comes to staff recruitment and retention. While this is not specific to IT staff, flexible work practices such as work hours and the opportunity to work from home, child care, and carers leave have a significant impact on staff retention. According to Hulse, at Salesforce there is a strong focus on providing a combination of work-life balance, and a meaningful career.

10. Don’t forget to mention money

The most successful IT employers “offer more”, but don’t necessarily “pay more”, in part because software developers are already well paid, and in part because they understand that being a great employer is about more than remuneration.

So while the offerings listed here may well cost a little more, the best employers clearly demonstrate that the ability to find and hold on to great staff more than compensates for the costs or breakfasts, coffee or even the odd Nerf gun.


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