Protect Your Best EmployeesBy Alice Hill | Posted 2011-10-03 Print
Today’s tech boom is the 21st Century version of the California gold rush. But today’s gold is a treasure of a different sort—people.
The year? 1849. The setting? The rugged, unfamiliar territory known today as the Golden State—California. Miners flocked there set on striking it rich. Some pulled it off, only to learn an immediate lesson: Once you get your hands on gold, you’d better fiercely protect it, or someone is going to steal it.
Today’s tech boom is the 21st century version of the gold rush. The setting? The vast, constantly changing frontier of technology, still largely unmapped and just waiting for adventurous folks to stake a claim.
But today’s gold is a treasure of a different sort—people. Companies on tech’s leading edge have immeasurable riches walking around their offices right now: employees who shine brighter than the rest, those who display enterprise, innovate and add immense value to the workplace.
Here’s what Joe Omansky, the head of community for Trusted Insight, a billion-dollar online investment marketplace that connects member investors with deals worldwide, says about this issue: “It’s not difficult to find enterprising people in technology. Innovative entrepreneurs love the technology sector because by definition it’s creative and it’s still at the very early stages of the industry life cycle.”
So, let’s say you’ve found your “gold.” Or, perhaps the gold has even come to you. Those shining examples, your ideal employees, are likely getting your brand, your company or even you noticed because of what they do. And chances are, your competitors have noted this and are on the prowl and ready to pounce.
In a recent Dice.com study, 54 percent of hiring managers and recruiters anticipate that tech talent poaching will get more aggressive this year, while just 3 percent of respondents expect a letup. How should you respond?
“I believe it’s not about being poached by another company; it’s about building an incentivized work environment—emotionally as well as financially—so that the risk that your best people will leave will be low,” says Omansky. “If [employees] are happy, they won’t want to leave.”
A proactive approach to retaining your best and brightest should be your top priority. That’s what Trusted Insight does, according to Omansky: “We try to build an environment where employees can feel free to create and own their ideas, while taking responsibility for executing on those ideas.”
After all, organizations that protect their workers are far less likely to have them stolen. This means cultivating a workplace where all employees—but especially your best and brightest—feel valued, respected and supported in their endeavors.
“We must make our employee experience a good one, ranging from [giving them] challenging assignments to providing the right tools, fair pay and training investments for their careers,” says Al Maag, chief communications officer at Avnet. “Consistency pays dividends when you attract and hire people. Sure, the Avnet brand and culture start at the top, but for our company to be successful, our employees have to be our main brand ambassadors.”
One of Avnet’s strategies, Maag explains, is to survey all employees around the world, inquiring about their level of engagement. In addition, the survey focuses on everything from benefits to service levels.
“For example,” says Maag, “we ask about how we work together as teammates. We’re able to tell whether our folks are engaged and if they’re they committed. Would they recommend Avnet to a friend? If they had an opportunity to leave, would they?”
Many hiring managers claim their companies are taking frequent steps to keep talent from departing to the competition. The most popular tactics: accommodating flexible work hours, offering work on new or emerging technologies, and increasing salaries.
A majority of hiring managers (54 percent) believe they can tell when a technology professional is about to exit. The most frequent sign is a change in habits related to work or a noticeable lack of engagement with colleagues or projects.
At Avnet, Maag cites these three reasons why employees leave that seem reasonable to him: “One, there’s the ‘Somebody’s offered me a lot of money to do the same job’ explanation. Go for it! Two, ‘Somebody’s offered me more responsibility.’ Again, go for it! And three, Avnet has cycles.
“This environment may not be for everyone. It’s fast-paced and can be high stress at times. Certain people need more balance. That’s fine. But if people leave because they did not like the company for other reasons, I think it’s a disappointment.”
In today’s world, leaving isn’t always seen as a negative. “It’s important to remove ‘bad fits’ from the team as quickly as possible,” says Trusted Insight’s Omansky. “That way, everyone’s interests are in alignment.”
Alice Hill is managing director of Dice.com, a career Website for technology and engineering professionals.
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