How to Retain Technical Talent and Stay Competitive in Today’s Market

Tech TeamHiring technical talent is half the battle and the other half is retaining them for the long-term and staying competitive in today’s market. Much like pulling together a mountaineering team to conquer new heights, your technology team is a valuable business resource that depends on each member in the team being there all the way to the top.

Losing a key member mid climb is usually a recipe for disaster unless the team is not really going anywhere but that’s a different topic.

With the job market for technology professionals predicted to be strong again in 2013, firms need to be aggressive in retaining their technical talent.

Today’s technology job market is vibrant according to the Dice 2012 Hiring Survey: nearly two-thirds (64%) of hiring managers and recruiters say that their companies or clients will likely add new technology workers in the first six months of the new year. It is so fierce for developers that large companies are gobbling up start-up firms not for their products but for their technical talent (see WSJ: Start-Ups Get Snapped Up for Their Talent).

How does a firm retain their technical talent and avoid the business disruption of migrating technical talent?


Technology professionals are factually resources that gain in marketability each and every year because of the new skills and experience they get under their belts. Their earning power and general marketability are not static things and, depending on which technology silo they are in, may be dramatically dynamic!

Let’s take a real-life typical example: a junior PHP web developer is hired at $49k and gains excellent experience working on advanced LAMP projects over the next 3 years. Management at this particular company views technical staff like other admin and general sales support staff and thus either do not give out raises or only small ones. No bonuses. No other perks other than health insurance. This developer packed his bags and left to earn over $80k with another firm. Who wouldn’t?

The moral of the story is: your technical staff are resources to be invested in regularly.

All too often technical staff are viewed somewhat like your local utility company: when was the last time you thanked PG&E for keeping the lights glowing? Right! But those staff may pull all nighters and work crazy hours to keep everything running smoothly.

When was the last time you tangibly rewarded your technical staff?


Many non-technical firms may attempt to view all their employee groups the same including the technical staff and hold the line on pay raises, bonuses and other perks to save on operating costs. This may work for other employee classifications but the technology market is a fast-moving train and firms need to either keep pace with it or risk losing their technology staff.

By their very nature technology staff are smart and if their compensation package gets too out of line with the market then you risk losing them. This is easy to rectify by having your HR Dept monitor the technology job market and ensure salaries, bonuses and other compensation remains competitive.

If finances are tight and business management is holding firm on no pay raises for anyone then I recommend they sit back and look at their technology staff as a company resource rather than an operating expense. Invest in them like any other company resource. You can spend $100k on new hardware for the year but zero dollars are allocated for technology staff pay raises or bonuses?

Here’s a real-life example: the IT Director is attempting to convince a senior business exec to give pay raises to some high performing technical staff in order to stay competitive with the market and reply was: “We don’t care what the market pays. This is what ABC Company pays. If they want to leave for more pay then let them. We can always replace them.” This technology team has since decreased in size along with the seniority of its talent.

That’s a tough business stand which sometimes works but is risky.


It takes at least 6-12 months to train in a new technology staff member on a post and even up to 24 months depending on the complexity of the position and everything that must be learned and absorbed. That is a lot of time, energy and company resources expended to get each technology worker up to snuff.

If that talent now leaves then all of that investment is “lost” and must be done again with a new recruit. That’s expensive. Now factor in the costs of replacing that talent:

  • HR time spent advertising and culling candidates.
  • Interview time spent by technology staff.
  • Possible head hunter fees if going through an agency.
  • Lost production because of the vacancy.
  • Training the new recruit.

Rewarding and keeping your technology staff does pay off!


Your best performers or what I like to call my superheroes deserve to be tangibly rewarded from time to time. Everyone likes to be appreciated and when it is tangible then it goes oh so much further than just a “well done” comment.

Here are some creative ways to reward your best performers other than pay raises:

  • A surprise bonus of $1,000 – $2,000.
  • A paid weekend getaway at a nice B&B.
  • Theatre tickets for a local show.
  • A gift coupon for a therapeutic massage.
  • Framed commendation with a gift card.

I have gotten quite creative with my own staff outside of the corporate “rules” to personally reward my best performers.

Why reward your best performers? Because you get even more performance out of them! A little goes a long way.

Now, what about those sluggards? Why put up with them? If they are not performing as expected and will not turn around despite all your good correction, then demote them. Cut their pay. Factually by doing so will raise the morale of those who are actually pulling their weight on the team!

In summary, your technical staff are resources to be invested in regularly. Keep them together and reaching those new heights! You will sleep better at night.

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