Look around. Two-thirds of the people you know in the tech sector might make a job move in 2020.
During my 25 years in the technology field, I worked the help desk for a technical auditing firm, I was a Lotus Notes developer and I’ve been blessed to reinvent my current job for the better part of 15 years while working alongside nine different bosses at the company. I’m also the definition of “job changer” – before I set my sights on a career in tech, I had a gig driving a horse-drawn buggy along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile where my most memorable patron was Telly Savalas!
So, we can chalk up tech job hopping to the way it’s always been or admit there are larger issues at play and start fixing them.
ISACA, a global, non-profit association that works to advance the positive potential of technology, surveyed 3,587 tech professionals from 126 countries on topics ranging from retention to career negotiations. The survey, Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap, found that 70% of technology professionals would consider changing jobs within the next two years and are considered “in play” for recruitment. While the majority of business technology professionals are getting rewarded with raises and/or promotions (2/3) and have very high job satisfaction – despite high stresses associated with their jobs – two-thirds of tech professionals believe they are limited in accessing career opportunities and have reached seniority that prevents an upward career path. And surprisingly, a quarter of business tech professionals don’t know what they need to do to advance in their careers.
Lightbulb moment: We must do better at all levels of our organizations to communicate and support career growth opportunities.
Group Leaders Create Connection
As a seasoned leader, I realize that doing so becomes less about my individual skillset, and more about fostering connections and coaching the team to their potential so staff can guide other team members. But frankly, I didn’t realize that overnight. Early on in management, I sought out my own coach to challenge my thinking. She encouraged me to consider how other people on the team experienced me. I discovered I had some things to hone to become a better manager. This type of fearless and moral inventory helped me focus on creating a connected team culture of working in service to one another.
Over the years I’ve found there really is no replacement for in-person connection when it comes to creating work culture. The ISACA survey also found that out-of-office meetups mitigate burnout and on-the-job stress. With 64% of tech pros reporting burnout or stress in their current roles, it’s imperative I understand what motivates staff to stay. I aim to meet my local team in-person quarterly and my multi-state team a few times a year. These meet-ups are simple and very social, such as lunch at Chicago’s Navy Pier, or a fun afternoon of ping pong. But the purpose is strategic – facilitate team engagement, do a pulse check on how team members feel about their work, and ensure I’m consistently investing coaching time to enhance team culture.
Managers as Mentors
Frontline managers often have the best access to mentor staff such as by providing guidance on personal career planning, identifying employee motivations and drawing out employee questions or concerns. Furthermore, these recurring manager/employee conversations result in more symbiotic communication that helps managers identify and advocate for employee experiences that reinforce staff desire to stay. My industry colleague, Natasha Barnes, a Senior Manager, within Protiviti’s Internal Audit and Financial Advisory solution, calls herself an “older millennial” and says several younger professionals have asked her for guidance on career conversations. Natasha identifies preparation staff should undertake to plan for a career and salary negotiation tailored to their interests. But she also stresses the importance of networking with colleagues, sharing knowledge internally and externally, and knowing company career pathways.
Realistically, when you take the time to mentor a millennial, you’re likely coaching a digital native – someone who grew up during the age of mainstream digital technology. As digital natives increasingly ascend into leadership positions, we can expect them to become the most digitally savvy leaders and board members that organizations have known. According to ISACA’s Next Decade of Tech: Envisioning the 2020s research, due to the ascent of digital natives in the 2020s 54% of boards will be more digitally savvy and 56% will be more proactive about deploying emerging technologies. These digital natives will clearly impact enterprise culture, so let’s mentor them now.
Employees – Build Your Wheelhouse Too
As an employee, you need to find a circle of trusted peer advisors as early in your career as possible. Aim for experienced professionals in the same or similar industry who can provide advice ranging from how to work with a challenging staffer to managing work-related stress. And the wheelhouse should include at least one trusted peer in your own organization who will always tell it like it is, even when the truth hurts. This is the person you can ask tough questions to, like: What could I improve upon in the workplace? True growth isn’t possible without these insights, so get ready to listen and make some changes.
Together we can raise the bar and truly understand why employees stay and why they leave in today’s heavily recruited and in-demand business technology workforce.