Tips for employers competing in the 2017 IT economy, which may not last forever, but is the reality now.
Got a press release from Insight Enterprises recently. The company wanted some recognition for its selection to the Phoenix Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” list and its 2016 certification from Great Place to Work.
Why not? According to surveys, more than 90 percent of employees at Insight said the company “has a great atmosphere and provides challenging work” while 95 percent said they “take great pride in their association with Insight as an employer.”
Which brings me to you: If polled, would your workers say similar things about your company? Given that there are as many as 750,000 unfilled tech jobs in the U.S. and that the unemployment rate is below 5 percent, you might want to consider. Whether it is jumping to a competitor, customer or new venture, tech employees have more employment options than at any time in recent memory. Some prefer to freelance as contractors. Others pine to set up their own shop. And some are just itching to jump ship.
Smart employers recognize this. So they are going to great lengths to provide superior work, benefits and career paths to their employees. No, I’m not talking about dog walking privileges or concierge dry cleaners. Instead, I’m talking about something more serious. Take WP Engine, an Austin, Texas, web hosting company that specializes in WordPress sites.
When my colleague Nicole Henderson visited WP Engine last year, she was stunned to find nearly every employee dressed in a WP Engine or WordPress T-shirt. At first she wondered if she entered into a cult. But then she learned that cheerful employees were only to happy to wear the company’s colors. WP Engine founder Jason Cohen told her, “I do wear a WordPress shirt almost everyday… people here are obsessive with our brand and WordPress.”
Look around the channel and you’ll find plenty of other similarly motivated workplaces. They may not wear logo work outfits, but they demonstrate unmistakable enthusiasm just the same. Among MSPs, Slalom Consulting and Vology have been rated as “best places to work” in their markets. And there are many others.
Which begs the question, “what are the qualities that set a great employer apart from the run of the mill?” Here are five things that I think distinguish the great from the good:
- Meaningful Work
Do you ask your employees to grind it out everyday? Or do they tackle important assignments? Given a choice—and make no mistake workers today have options—employees want satisfying work. Yes, they will tolerate some grinding, so long as they believe that what they are tackling has significance. What is more, they want some self-determination and sense of ownership. If you don’t provide these things, prepare yourself for high turnover.
- Growth Opportunities
On average, workers expect to be promoted every 18-36 months. Is that happening where you work? If not, then you likely have workers who are pining for more. Even if you cannot provide them with defined career paths, you can invest in their career development and growth. Through ongoing education, certification, training and more. Is it expensive? It’s exorbitant! But it’s cheaper in the long run than high turnover.
- Inspiring Leadership
Theranos. Yahoo. Wells Fargo. Can you imagine following the leaders of these companies? If not outright lies or distortions, the employees of these organizations were expected to labor under unrealistic expectations or falsehoods. This kind of nonsense destroys morale and undermines confidence. In contrast to these organizations, there are many workplaces where leadership is bold and convincing—not to mention honest and relatable. If you’ve ever worked in such a place, you know how capable a motivated, engaged and committed workforce can be.
- Collaborative Culture
While inspiring leadership is invaluable, it’s not everything. Let’s face it: most workers never come in contact with their executive leadership on a daily basis. What they do experience everyday is your corporate culture. Does yours tell the truth or labor under unrealistic expectations? Does yours inspire innovation or dismiss new or unorthodox thinking? Does it value customers or just your bottom lines? If you’re not sure, try ordering from your organization or attempt to promote an unfamiliar idea. If corporate “antibodies” blunt your advance when you do, then you have a culture problem.
- Competitive Benefits
While considered table stakes, your compensation, benefits and other packages are more important than ever. This is especially true in an era when workers compare notes on employment websites and via social media. As a result, your wages, healthcare plans and retirement programs are readily visible for all to see. So are vast amounts of industry data. The average salary increase for IT workers, for example, is in the 2.1-2.3 percent range. For workers in the 90th percentile, it’s at least 3 percent, or was in 2015. No matter how highly you think of your mission, culture or brand, you’ll lose valuable contributors if your benefits fall short.
If the preceding suggests to you that workers are gaining the upper hand in employment, then congratulations, you’re ready to compete in 2017 IT economy. It may not last forever, but it’s the reality now.