Why Tech Employees Walk Off the Job

Why Tech Employees Walk Off the Job

And how you can stop them

by Riia O’Donnell

In the first of its kind survey, The Kapor Center for Social Impact recently published The Tech Leavers Survey – a look at why IT professionals voluntarily leave their positions. The tech turnover data are somewhat surprising. Rather than salary, benefits, or title, the top reason tech pros resigned their position was they were resigning their company. A toxic work environment, and lack of fairness or respect were cited more than any other factor in tech turnover for the last three years.

  • 78% experienced some form of unfair behavior or treatment in their former company
  • 85% witnessed unfair behavior or treatment in their former company

The study, published in April 2017, sampled over 2,000 employees who left a job in a technology-related industry or capacity within the last 3 years. The details should give employers pause to consider whether they are perceived by their employees as respectful.

Tech Turnover Breakdown

Many companies believe they’re losing their tech employees to head-hunters and recruiters, but the survey showed almost double the amount of employees left due to their own company policies, rather than the promise of a better job:

  • 37% cited unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave
  • 22% cited being recruited to a better company as their decision to leave

Compared to other sectors, employees in tech industry resign due to unfairness almost 25% more often than their non-tech industry counterparts:

  • 42% of tech industry employees resign due to unfairness
  • 32% of non-tech industry employees resign due to unfairness

Tech Turnover for Underrepresented Groups

Within the tech industry itself, the need to increase underrepresented populations is stark:

  • Although women are half the US population, they represent only one-quarter the tech workforce.
  • Although African-Americans and Latinos comprise 30% of the US population, they represent only 15% of the tech workforce.
  • At the top earning tech companies (Apple, Google, Facebook) Blacks and Latinos represent only 3-5% of the workforce.

The Cost

It’s estimated that turnover of tech employees costs US employers about $16 billion dollars annually in recruitment and lost productivity expense. Additionally, only 35% of those who resigned would refer their company to a friend or colleague: 25% report they would be less likely to recommend others even make purchases from their former employer.

Moving to a Culture of Respect

For companies to thwart tech turnover due to an unfair or disrespectful work environment, initiatives must come from the top down. If management is committed to a respectful environment, to a diverse and inclusive workforce, the message trickles throughout the ranks. Turnover of productive, long-term employees can be minimized by creating a culture of respect throughout the company. The study found:

  • 62% of employees would remained on the job if their company had worked to create a more respectful workplace
  • 57% report they would have stayed if their company was more fair and inclusive

Smart managers would do well to determine whether unfairness has played a part in employee turnover in the past. If so, it may be time to redefine your company’s values and carry them out. Many employers are surprised to find their mission statement doesn’t translate to the rank and file. If you’re committed to diversity and respect, these core values must be incorporated at every level. You can take steps to improve the culture of your organization by:

  • Use anonymous surveys periodically to gauge the perception of fairness in your workplace
  • Increase hiring in underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, to emphasize and embrace diversity
  • Audit salary and compensation packages to assure equity across all sectors
  • Open non-punitive dialogues about culture and respect, and act on information provided

In a competitive marketplace, losing productive employees is costly. Assuring your corporate culture isn’t responsible for up to 40% that loss is a smart business practice.



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