A Dubious Honor: Why the Technology Sector Has the Highest Turnover


Zoë MorrisPresident of Mason Frank

Friday, August 16, 2019

The fact that there’s a significant skills gap in the tech sector isn’t breaking news. Any business that’s attempted to recruit skilled IT professionals recently will be well aware that candidates are thin on the ground, but even those who do manage to entice an IT unicorn into their organization aren’t in the clear yet.

Article 5 Minutes
A Dubious Honor: Why the Technology Sector Has the Highest Turnover

There’s a lot of focus on candidate generation, but getting candidates with the right skills and experience to support your digital endeavors through the door isn’t enough. To truly overcome the talent shortage problem, we need to talk about turnover.

The tech sector is currently holder of a very dubious title—it has the highest employee turnover of any industry, “boasting” a churn rate of 13.2%. At this frequency, even the companies that do manage to attract the talent they want may find themselves going back to the recruitment drawing board before long, and as any business will tell you, churn can be hugely expensive.

High turnover is a problem that permeates the sector at every level. Even those at the apex of the industry, the big name companies that can, in theory, have their pick of talent, are struggling to retain staff. Take Google, for example. Famed for its myriad benefits and the extensive facilities on its campuses, the average length of service for Google workers is just 1.1 years. Amazon’s tech employees are out even faster, staying for just a year, while Apple keeps hold of its staff for an average of 24 months.  

So what’s driving such ceaseless turnover in the tech sector?  

Big salaries—and low ceilings

IT is a huge sector, and the wages pulled in by tech professionals differ massively from role to role, location to location. Despite this variation, if you’re working a tech job, you can be sure that you’re earning a fair bit more than the average salary in your area.

Today, the typical wage for IT jobs is twice that of the United States’ average job. And yet, many tech workers—around half, in fact—are dissatisfied with their pay packet. Why is this? While wages in tech are unquestionably decent, in many areas of the sector, they’re not moving very far or very fast—the average salary for IT pros has barely changed since 2015.

Another aspect of the wage growth issue is that too many employers feel their work is done once they hire a great candidate. Tech workers are like those in any other sector; they want a clear path of development, and to know they have potential to grow.

Too many tech professionals don’t feel valued by their employers, or that their leaders have a long-term plan for them to progress with the business. In many cases, the only way a tech worker feels they can move forward with their careers or land a pay rise is to switch jobs.

Though salary is a key motivator for tech candidates, it’s far from the be all and end all. There’s much more in play when it comes to tech’s extreme revolving door problem.

A veritable buffet of choice

Unemployment in tech is at a twenty-year low. Throw in a growing skills shortage and idling wages, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for fierce competition among employers who’re vying to get the talent they need on their roster.  

Your tech team’s best employee doesn’t even have to be job hunting to have offers thrust their way. If they’ve got the skills, it’s likely that even passive candidates will be batting off approaches from hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals on a regular basis. For valuable employees, temptation lies around every corner.

With more vacancies than professionals in the market to fill them, job seekers—even those who aren’t actively looking for a new role—have the upper hand, and you can be sure that there’s always a door or two open to tech workers with the right credentials.  

The search for greener (and fairer) pastures

Company culture has become an increasingly important factor in hiring in the past few years. Creating a great culture is essential to attracting employees who share your vision and want to be part of your business long-term; the best candidates want to work for companies with purpose and within an engaged, fulfilling environment. 

Employers that want to attract and retain tech workers should start by ensuring that their business is somewhere people actually want to work. The tech sector has a reputation for being something of a boy’s club, creating a less-than-inclusive atmosphere for many professionals, but in a competitive and candidate-strapped sector like tech, employees don’t have to stand for poor treatment and a hostile workplace. If their current employer doesn’t support them, they’ll find one that does.

In their recent survey of tech professionals who’d recently left jobs, The Kapor Center found that almost two-thirds of leavers would’ve stayed had their employer taken steps to create a more positive and respectful work environment.

With so many jobs going unfilled and turnover at staggering rates, tech must embrace workers from diverse talent pools to survive, but too many companies are failing to create an inclusive space where all of their employees can thrive. Employers that fail to do this are driving tech talent out of their business, and in many cases, away from the sector entirely.  Given that 65% of CIOs state that hiring challenges are hurting the tech sector, addressing the root causes of employee turnover is a luxury businesses simply can’t afford.  

Zoë Morris

Zoë Morris is the President of Salesforce staffing firm Mason Frank International. Zoë has played a vital role in building Mason Frank into the global, award-winning specialist recruitment firm that it is today; under her leadership, the company has consistently achieved substantial year-on-year growth.


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