You are no doubt already aware that the technology industry (specifically software) has a notoriously high turnover rate. In fact, according to one oft-cited statistic, tech actually has a higher employee-turnover rate than any other industry, at 13.2%.
It’s not hard to explain why this is the case. For one thing, compensation is a major factor. Software developers are in high enough demand that they can choose to go where the money is. Of course, COVID-19 and the widespread adoption of remote work highlighted the fact that “going where the money is” doesn’t necessarily mean changing your geographical location. As a result, many companies are becoming more aggressive in recruiting worldwide, tapping into labour markets that they might not have considered before the pandemic.
It’s about more than money, though; it’s also about the work itself. A big company like Amazon or Microsoft might be able to offer its employees high salaries in hopes of keeping them around, but if the role means working on a widget within a component in a subsystem of an accessory product to the core business, the money alone might not be enough to keep a talented software engineer engaged. That is where small to mid sized Canadian companies can really differentiate themselves. Highlighting their unique company culture and an experience that is closer to the end customer and therefore could feel more impactful.
In the current market, talent can be picky. This is not a bad thing in and of itself. After all, people should have options, and I think overall it’s making for a more vibrant industry that is attracting new talent and young people to move into the tech field. This is something we need now more than ever, as we find ourselves in the midst of a labour shortage the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 years. There’s never been a more crucial time for companies to retain their best and brightest.
Redbrick has an employee turnover rate that’s about 40% lower than the tech-sector industry average. Our team isn’t entirely homegrown, however, I believe that one of the key ways we find and retain amazing people is through our commitment to fostering emerging talent, especially the talent in our own backyard, through co-op programs.
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I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, and I studied computer science at the University of Victoria. My first real-world experience in the tech industry came through a placement from UVic’s co-operative education program. My first posting—at a nuclear power plant in Ontario—had a huge impact on my career and my personal growth, as did my second at a small startup in Victoria.
When I started Redbrick, I wanted to give back to that program, in order to give students the opportunity to get some firsthand experience in the industry. Participating in the co-op program has helped out the students and the university, no doubt, but it has also paid dividends for Redbrick. Since the beginning of our involvement in the program, we’ve had 61 co-op students come to Redbrick for work experience. Of that number, we’ve hired nearly 40% after graduation to come work for us on a part-time or full-time basis.
Once you’ve hired a talented newcomer, though, how do you keep them around? Consider finding ways to keep your teams small. It’s a great way to foster team cohesion, but there’s more to it than that. At a bigger tech company, a software developer could work on their assigned part of a product without ever coming into contact with the end user. Within a smaller group, the distance between the consumer of a product and the people creating that product is greatly reduced. When you can see the impact of your work firsthand, you feel less like a cog in a machine; you feel like you truly matter to the organization that signs your cheques.
Another way to show your team members that they matter—and that a bright future lies ahead if they stay with you—is being very deliberate with employees’ titles. That might seem like a trivial matter, but a series of progressive titles creates a path forward within the company. It can instill a sense of comfort—to say nothing of loyalty—for a junior developer to know that the next step on their journey is an intermediate role (with a corresponding increase in compensation), and that there are even greater opportunities to come.
These are simple things, but they can have a big effect on a company’s culture—and its employee retention. Foster the emerging tech talent in your own backyard and let your team members see that they matter and you might find yourself bucking the industry’s infamously high turnover rate, one great person at a time.