This article bugs me: 7 in 10 tech workers say they’re considering quitting their job within the next year in a new survey. Can you imagine what would happen if 70% of your tech team quit their jobs?
I’ve been in tech since the 1900s. I was a programmer way back in the day, moved into a more general role as an IT manager, and have run or been involved in my own internet businesses since 2006. I’ve hired and managed IT professionals most of my career. I’ve seen tech jobs change lives, providing opportunities to people to have amazing careers and opportunities.
I didn’t go into tech because I was a geeky kid. I was fine with computers but gravitated more towards general business than programming or any hardware, networking, etc. stuff. In college I chose to major in international business but, as a sophmore, changed schools and the new school didn’t offer international business. So I chose the only technical degree in the college of business I could: Computer Information Systems (CIS).
Technology has been a bit of a normalizer for career opportunities, which is something I love.
I’m bugged by this article. I can believe(ish) the stats…. although the headline might be a little misleading. Note it doesn’t say they are quitting technology… just quitting their jobs.
Which means that employers are failing their employees.
Tech workers are like any other workers in that they want a rewarding, fulfilling job.
So why do 70% of tech workers polled say they plan on quitting their jobs?
According to the article:
- 40% say the are frustrated about limited career progression
- Inflexible work hours were frustrating
- Feeling underappreciated was a factor
- Toxic work environments is a factor
- “under a third” want more remote work options
- 85% said they felt the organization focused (and probably rewarded) new talent rather than investing in the existing team
- 58% suffer from job burnout but only 30% of those said that’s a top reason they would quit.
Another survey by Joblist said a quarter of the 73% of Americans who were ready to quit their jobs would do so even without having another job lined up. Yikes!
Years ago an HR executive complained to me that they were frustrated there was no loyalty from employees to employers anymore. I’m sure I had to hold back a belly laugh.
Remember in the 1900s there was this cool idea that you work for a company for a long time and then you retire with a nice pension and other benefits? Yeah… that’s definitely a thing of the past for almost everyone. This pension was a major carrot, or enticement, for employees to stay around and do a good job for a long time. The carrot is gone. Or, as I see it, loyalty towards the employee is gone.
No wonder employee loyalty has disintegrated.
I’m also frustrated because I blog about the work environment and culture at the Snowfly blog. I’m pounding the drum of creating better environments for people so 70% of people don’t feel like they need to quit their job. I talk about rewards and incentives and peer and manager recognition (all features of the Snowfly software). I talk about empoyee performance, job satisfaction, productivity, etc.
I’m not alone. There are gobs of people talking about creating better cultures and environments. Yet here we are… talking about 70+% of people who are just fed up to the point they’ll quit their job!
They said they wanted “more training and learning” to help them feel more motivated. In the olden days that might have meant sending people to conferences to see what industry leaders (or at least conference speakers) were talking about. Nowadays it can simply be done with a very inexpensive subscription to a learning library, like Pluralsight (my three dozen soft skill courses here).
Why are 70% of techies and 73+% of everyone ready to quit their jobs? I think it boils down to not being treated as right as we could be treated. But there’s more… it’s more complicated than that.
By the way, the right answer isn’t to just spend more money, increase salaries, or bonuses, etc. Here are some of my thoughts:
Create ownership and pride
The most engaged I’ve ever been is when I feel ownership and pride in the jobs I have. This doesn’t have to mean equity in the company, but that can help too. When I feel like what I’m doing matters, and will have an impact, I’m in! I worked on a product that was supposedly one of the core pillars of the organization. I was so proud to be on that team! I went above and beyond and had a grand vision of what the outcome would be. I did uncomfortable things because of this ownership and pride and buyin.
This ownership and pride can happen at any level. I’ve seen front desk receptionists really own their area. They got to buy what they felt they needed, they got to create the brand that people experienced when they first walked in the doors, and in a sense, they set the tone for an office visit. Creating these feelings of ownership and pride takes thought and planning. Meet together as a leadership team to devise ways you can create this in your organization.
I think when you have created ownership and pride you greatly reduce the employee’s desire to quit their job.
Compensate fairly with opportunities to earn more
If you have the lowest salaries/hourly in your market (considering location, industry, etc.) then you are likely going to be passed up by better talent, or have current employees quit their job to go to another organization. A buck an hour might not seem like a big difference to you but people are making job decisions on a few cents an hour difference. Even if the amount they get in the end is immaterial (after taxes and all the deductions), there’s something psychological about choosing to work for, for example, $65k vs $63k.
So figure out what you really should be paying. What are other companies, even your competitors and the companies down the road, paying?
When I got my first job out of school I put a salary requirement (this was a weird situation in that I had performed the job as a contractor and wrote the job description and expected salary for the person to replace me). The job was “IT Manager” and the company was a very low margin service industry (think: janitorial). The salary was so outside of what they were used to that my boss, the CFO, called a competitor/partner and asked, “Are starting salaries in tech really this high????” They were used to paying starting janitorial salaries. Even supervisors and managers didn’t start out at what I proposed.
The response was, “Absolutely.” A quick search online and a few phone calls could easily validate the market rate for roles.
You don’t have to pay top rate for top talent. Some techies have worked for top rate and sacrificed everything else because they were expected to be on 24×7. I worked with an organization that paid market+ (a little over the market rate), but provided an amazing work environment and a very real expectation to leave work at work at a reasonable hour and then go have a life outside of work. Who worked there? People who were burnt out from earning lots more but burning the candle at both ends (and in the middle). These are people who quit their job even though they paid more!
As long as people know they are making a fair wage, and perhaps have the opportunity to earn more (end of year bonuses, etc.), that might be enough to entice them to work in your organization, especially if you are offering the something much healthier than burnout from the higher paying jobs.
Respect home and personal life
Speaking of burnout, it’s frustrating to always be on. When you get home but you have to put out fires (bugs in code, network problems, CEO can’t figure out what his passwords are, etc.).
In that first job I got, as IT Manager, one of the cofounders was walking out of the office around 5pm on a Friday afternoon and passed my desk. “Alba, go home! It’s five o’clock!”
I was surprised that this cofounder would tell me to go home. Afterall, wasn’t I there to make him money? To help make his company successful? That shows my immaturity and his wisdom. He knew that staying at work late was not good for anyone.
Years later I was working at a rocketship tech company and another executive was walking around at 5pm telling people, “Go home. Your work will be here tomorrow.” They created a culture of real balance. Work hard when you are at work but when you are at home (or out playing) then be fully present. Don’t worry about losing your job… we need you healthy!
I’ve been intrigued by some countries who have this type of balance as part of their DNA, and I’ve been striving to create that healthy balance for myself and my teams.
The truth is, the work will never end. Staying an hour (or three) later won’t finish the job. Working weekends won’t finish the unending amount of tasks that need to be done. Help your team figure out productivity and prioritization tactics and encourage them to be mentally and physically healthy by getting them away from work. Otherwise you’ll just be setting them up to burn out and quit their job.
Recognize and reward
I am an owner of Snowfly, a rewards and recognition company. I blog about culture and work environment, leadership and job satisfaction. I’m convinced there are things we could do, as managers and leaders, to create healthier organizations.
Having immersed myself in the Snowfly literature and on customer and prospect calls I’ve become acutely aware that we need to create a culture where each of us are recognized. We should be recognized for work we do, accomplishments, efforts, attitudes, etc. Far from promoting the trophy culture where everyone gets a trophy, we need to realize that people want to know they matter. When this doesn’t happen is it any wonder why they quit their jobs?
Recognition can be from managers, other organizational leaders, and peers. Recognition can be public or semi public. Recognition should be sincere and constant. The alternative is no recognition and having your team wonder if their contributions even matter. I’ve been on both sides and I can tell you, even as someone who does not have “words of affirmation” as a love language, not getting any recognition is demoralizing.
Rewards goes hand in hand with recognition. A reward, or incentive, could be intrinsic or extrinsic. In other words, it could hit the P&L but it doesn’t have to. There are plenty of ways to help someone feel rewarded and incentivized without dipping into your budget. The key is that you figure out some rewards and recognition programs. Be strategic about this because you are creating a lasting culture.
Think this is fluffy stuff? Scroll up and look at why people say they will quit their job: “Feeling underappreciated was a factor”
If you aren’t used to helping people feel appreciated, or recognizing people for their contributions, it can take some practice. You better get started, though. Practice and improve over time and knock this reason people quit their job off the list.
Treat employees like humans
Many organizations exist to make money. Profit rules. Money makes the world go around.
I get all of that.
But if you focus on results while not respecting the people who help you get results you might be creating an unsustainable system. My old boss taught me a lot about treating employees like humans, not just a cog in a massive system. Rusty spent time each week in one-on-ones with me where the focus was not products or projects… it was on me. I felt like a friend, a human. I felt seen. He cared about the whole me, not just what I brought to work.
We need more of that. People crave this. Many don’t get it from home life. All they want is respect as a human.
I could go on and on about Rusty but I won’t in this post… here’s a short interview he did about this stuff.
Manage projects and expectations better
This addresses the job burnout stat from above. When projects or products are supposed to be finished within unreasonable deadlines and without the right resources, or when deliverables are turned in but never see the light of day (or don’t get appropriate marketing), it’s easy to get discouraged. Employees feel they are fighting an unwinnable fight. They want to quit their jobs!
Maybe cut down on the projects you are working on and focus on your core offerings? Maybe extend deadlines so they are achievable and reasonable? Maybe get better marketing, QA, specs, tools, etc. Maybe leadership needs to get better at simply saying “no, we aren’t going to take that on right now.”
I know cutting back sounds weird but really, it’s a productivity hack. Learn to say no not just to manage your time but to protect your work environment.
Most important, listen to your team. Set up systems (one on ones) and questions to understand when they are in danger of burnout.
70% Is Shameful
The cost of replacing employees is said to be multiple times their salary. I haven’t experienced that, perhaps because I haven’t had a budget to hire recruiters. But I can see that the opportunity cost of having an unfilled but critical position, plus the time spent looking, interviewing, all the way to training the new person until they are productive can get there.
We need to do better. Organizations, leaders, managers are responsible for this. Of course, there are cultural shifts and societal changes, but I think organizations can create much more enticing work environments to get that 70% number way, way lower.