How to Fight Tech Team Attrition

So you’re losing members of your tech teamfighting tech team attrition left and right. Do you know why? Or are people leaving without much of an explanation?

If it’s the latter, it’s easy to assume that the attrition is due to money – with the tech sector booming, companies are willing to shell out outrageous prices for top technical talent. The problem with this assumption, however, is that it most often isn’t true, as most team attrition can be attributed to a lack of listening.


The #1 Reason for Attrition – Lack of Listening

In our experience, places with severe team attrition have made the mistake of not listening to their teams’ complaints. It’s not that the technologists in these places weren’t offering to talk. Too often, they were willing to voice their opinions, but management refused to listen. Every team member may have had a slightly different take on what was happening, sure, but at the end of the day, if management had taken the time to listen, they would have found a common theme or two between everyone’s complaints.


Common complaints:

1. Company doesn’t offer a chance for technologists to grow

Technologists want to be challenged. They want good technology with modern equipment, as well as coworkers that will push limits and help them to see issues in a different way. When the code base is old and the equipment outdated, you’re going to have a hard time keeping top technical talent; they’re going to be frustrated by the limitations and lack of innovation.


2. Management doesn’t appreciate the team

While there always has to be a healthy dose of criticism to keep the project on track, make sure that it is balanced by positive encouragement. No one wants to be told time and time again that their work just isn’t cutting it, and not have their positive contributions recognized. When people make significant breakthroughs, management should recognize and address the progress. Little acts of appreciation, such as this, go a long way in keeping a team happy.


3. Management doesn’t respect their teams’ time

In any position, there’s going to be overtime or on-call time, which is something your team understands. However, when their personal time is constantly infringed upon, they’re going to be stressed. They’re likely to burn out if they are expected to have excessive product support responsibility, say for two weeks a month. A lack of respect for work-life balance is going to cause teams to burn out, and excessive turnover.


4. There’s a lack of transparency

People like to know what’s coming in the future, what they can expect, especially in the workplace. This is exactly why, if management keeps tech teams in the dark, teams aren’t going to be happy. A lack of knowledge often causes ridiculous rumors and hearsay to spread like wildfire, which in turn causes many to question job stability. If doubts about the workplace and their futures are strong enough, technologists will leave in droves to find stability.


5. Bad management

No one likes to think of themselves, or their colleagues, as bad managers.  Unfortunately, the reality is that many are lacking the interpersonal, organizational, or leadership skills necessary to lead a team effectively.  There’s only so much of bad leadership people can take before they start searching for another workplace.


6. Unfair market rate

As we said in the beginning, many people assume that tech talent leaves because an organization isn’t paying as much as their competitors. More often than not, this isn’t true. Statistically speaking, money is low on the list of why people leave a job if they are happy with all other aspects of the organization. However, if there are other issues, such as bad management, that are coupled with lower than average market rates, you can bet that top technologists will be leaving for another organization.


No workplace is going to be perfect; they’re all going to have their own flaws. The difference between those that have attrition and those that don’t, however, comes down to the management’s listening skills. If the management takes the time to listen to their teams’ complaints and tries to resolve them, their organization is going to have lower turnover than those who don’t.

Just assuming that people are leaving because of money is not enough, you need to listen to your employees and actually take into consideration what they’re saying. You may learn that it comes down to old technology, too many hours or an individual manager that’s causing the mass exodus. Your team has good ideas about what’s going on, so listen to them.


What do you do to fight attrition? Let us know in the comments section, or join the conversation on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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Thanks to Leithal-music for the use of their respective photographs.