The tech industry’s notably low unemployment rate has created some issues for employers, especially when it comes to locking down highly specialized tech talent. Simply put, there aren’t enough machine-learning specialists and IT security experts (to name two particularly in-demand roles) to go around.
With that in mind, what’s the best way for employers to attract and retain tech talent, beyond simply offering more money? The answer, in broadest terms, is straightforward: manage your teams well. According to the latest Dice Salary Survey, among those tech professionals who anticipate changing employers this year, some 68 percent indicated that they would do so to secure higher compensation—just ahead of those interested in better working conditions (47 percent) and more responsibility (34 percent).
In addition to fears over losing their current position or finding a job that matched their skill-set, tech professionals also expressed concern over keeping their skills up-to-date, not getting promoted, and increased workloads. When they suffer burnout, they blame a lack of interesting work and high-level recognition (among other reasons).
Taken individually, these fears and desires seem like a pretty diverse group. However, they all share one thing in common: managers can affect all of them. For example, a team leader can identify which tech staff crave more responsibility, and ensure they’re properly stimulated with new projects; at the same time, they can ensure that any stressed-out members of the team have an adjusted workload or more interesting work.
Training and Certification: A Key Differentiator (for Some)
Many tech pros want training and certification courses. For employers, the benefits of offering education are twofold: Not only does it make employees happier and more skilled, but it creates an in-house pool of talent that might otherwise prove difficult to recruit from the outside.
Those employees who expressed satisfaction with their employer were more likely to have training opportunities than those who weren’t satisfied, Dice’s Salary Survey found. Yet employers generally didn’t seem to prize this “perk” as highly; although some 71 percent of tech professionals rated training and education as “important,” only 40 percent said they had access to educational opportunities through their employer (a 31 percent gap). While company access to remote work and flexible schedules, stock programs, 401(k) participation, and paid sick leave all lagged well behind the percentage of tech professionals who thought such things were important, educational opportunities represented the largest such gap.
Employers aren’t using training as a motivator either. Of the tech pros who were offered some kind of motivator by their employers in 2018, training and certification ranked sixth (at 3 percent), behind increased compensation, working remotely, flexible hours, more challenging work and promotions.
The Challenges of Training
It’s easy to see why the concept of educating tech pros could intimidate some employers—training can seem like a huge, long-term investment with an uncertain payoff. But no matter their size or resources, most employers can figure out a way to meet employees’ needs on that front. For example, some companies may opt to hire instructors to teach certain skills within the office, while others might contract with an online-learning institution to tutor a specific team on specialized technology. There’s the option to pay for individuals’ classes, as well as their certifications.
That’s not to say that every tech professional wants a certification. Over half told Dice they don’t have any certifications. Most of those without certifications (45 percent) said they were not needed for their role. Some 16 percent said they didn’t think certifications would be valuable for their current role. But 15 percent said their company didn’t pay for certifications, and 15 percent said they didn’t have the time to earn one;that’s a significant percentage of employees potentially open to obtaining this benefit, which in turn might boost their morale and, ultimately, their retention rates.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in tech. A company riding high on a great product can just as quickly find its fortunes dashed by a competitor; a recession can squeeze off venture funding; or a manager could lose out on the hire who could revitalize a team. Fortunately, it’s clear that the things employees care about are often within the employers’ purview to actually control—provided managers listen and respond appropriately.