The Great Resignation

5 ways to keep top talent during The Great Resignation

The battle for tech talent is fierce. Companies need to get creative.

Woman at laptop

Retaining staff has never been so important.

Photo: Dessidre Fleming/Unsplash

This story is part of our special report, "The Great Resignation." Read more here.

Allow workplace flexibility

The pandemic has forever changed the way we think about work, and it’s becoming clear that employers must offer remote or hybrid work to effectively recruit and retain talent. It just doesn’t make sense to force workers to come into the office five days a week anymore. Protocol surveyed tech workers over the summer in 2021, and 39% strongly agreed that it’s important for their company to let them work remotely indefinitely.

A full return to office isn’t even safe or feasible right now. COVID-19 cases may be declining in the U.S., but we’re still very much in the pandemic’s stranglehold: December’s omicron surge was a harsh reminder. But remote work has a far-reaching future, even when the pandemic is behind us. It’s given tech workers flexibility, allowing them to live wherever they want. Who would want to give that up? There is still value to offering in-person work, inspiring deeper connection and spontaneous conversations. But in-person work should look very different than it did before. Maybe company leaders pour more resources into in-person retreats; maybe they set up bonding activities for local teams once a week.

Regardless, the freedom to work remotely is like “breathing oxygen” at this point, said Brian Kropp, Gartner head of HR Research. “It’s just the expectation that’s there,” Kropp said. Since it’s table stakes, companies may need to sweeten the deal to attract top talent.

Reevaluate benefits and compensation

Money is still one of the key factors for candidates considering their job options. But with the rise in remote work, conversations around salary have shifted. Tech companies are split when it comes to “geo-neutral” pay: giving workers the same salary regardless of where they live (and the related cost of living). Some, like marketing startup Iterable, have embraced the practice wholeheartedly. It’s a great way to appeal to candidates who want that flexibility but don’t want to give up the San Francisco paycheck.

Geo-neutral pay isn’t commonplace yet: Big companies like Meta, Twitter and Google cut pay when workers move to a place with a lower cost of living. If your company isn’t ready to take the geo-neutral leap, you can take a more middle-of-the-road approach. Some startups avoid cutting pay, but limit raises.

The Great Resignation has also inspired some creative perks and benefits. Tech companies are experimenting with four-day workweeks, with a few permanently adopting them. Others have abandoned synchronous meetings, letting employees manage their time asynchronously. Unlimited PTO is key as workers embrace flexible lifestyles (as long as companies encourage people to take enough time off). Some companies are giving workers space for mental health days, or wellness stipends.

“We’re going through a lot, between a global pandemic, climate change — don’t get me started on what’s going on politically in this country,” said Ariel Lopez, CEO of hiring platform Knac. “Sometimes you need to give people a break.”

Commit to DEI

Showing employees you care about diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just the morally correct thing to do — it’s better for your business. If you discriminate against or fail to listen to your employees, you will lose them. Tech companies made big promises in 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and protests against racism. But according to Protocol’s Diversity Tracker and data looking at executive retention, tech remains very white and male.

Protocol’s Workplace team dove into this topic in “The Inclusive Workplace” manual. Among other useful tips, we wrote about avoiding performative allyship, what inclusion actually looks like and the people changing the game.

DEI intersects with workplace benefits as well. Women, particularly women of color, are more likely to experience burnout at work than men. Companies should be cognizant of this, and brainstorm ways to alleviate certain stressors. Offering mental health or reset days is one method.

Inclusion directly corresponds to retention. Once you’re in that mindset, more of the workforce is open to you. Moving beyond race and gender, take a chance on workers who come from nontraditional backgrounds.

Provide opportunities to skill or reskill

If you want to show workers that you value people from nontraditional or underrepresented backgrounds, reevaluate your skilling opportunities. Employees want to work for companies that invest in them and care about their growth. How can companies show they care? By offering concrete ways they’ll help workers build on their skills.

“It is on companies just as much as it is on the educational providers to do the upskilling and reskilling,” Lopez said. “No one is really going to know what is needed in your particular environment better than you.”

With a comprehensive skilling program, your talent pool widens. You can look at bright, hard-working people ready to transition careers and those who come from nontraditional education backgrounds.

Use tools your employees like

In a tight talent market, workers can bring up all kinds of demands. Workplace tools have become all the more important in a remote, highly digital world. Some workers will even reject jobs if the company doesn’t use tools they like.

“More than ever, a candidate has the choice to really customize their personal employment experience,” Josh Drew, regional manager at recruiting firm Robert Half, told Protocol.

Workers might read more deeply into tool choices as a reflection of a company. If you use tools that most workers hate, they might think you don’t respect their preferences. It’s always a good idea to get feedback from employees and prospective candidates. It might be time for a tech stack update.

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