Is Compensation Enough to Retain Top IT Talent?

By Tom Kenaley on March 11, 2015 in IT Hiring, IT Salary


We’ve established that the salary conversation is essential when attracting and retaining top IT talent. But figuring out how much to pay tech professionals is just a fraction of the big picture. Even if you’ve done thorough research, using resources like our Southern California IT Salary Guide, to ensure your compensation packages meet or even exceed standard living expenses, you can’t guarantee that salary alone is enough to influence your tech professionals’ long-term career plans.

You probably know from your own experience that this is a somewhat intuitive concept; you may have even left a job in the past despite a great salary because it didn’t fuel your career goals or daily happiness. This is nothing new. The best employers already know they can’t just throw a number out there and forget about everything else. But with 30% of employees regularly looking for jobs, there comes the urgent question of just how to strike a balance in your retention strategy.


Measuring Happiness in Dollars

It might be helpful to take a look at some of the data behind this situation. A recent study sought to find out at what point money could no longer “buy” happiness. The researchers looked at household earnings versus general daily happiness levels.

What they found on a national level is that once someone’s household income hits $75,000, no extra money on top of that could make them any happier in their daily life. In California, with higher-than-average living expenses, this number is closer to $95,000, with natural variations depending on metro, debt, size of household, etc.

As you might have seen from our 2015 IT Salary Guide, the average salaries of many technology professionals frequently reach and surpass these levels on a regular basis, especially after several years in the industry. Plus, the demand for these professionals is significantly higher than supply.

With this in mind, you can easily see why competition for IT staff is high among Southern Californian companies. It’s not a simple option of selling a position with an attractive price tag. You have to sell your company, branding your business as a top employer.


When Compensation Is Not Enough

So if there’s truly a cap to how much money will satisfy someone, what factors can we look at to enhance our retention strategies? A recent CareerBuilder survey reports that half of all workers feel “career-less,” with no tangible career path in their jobs. A further 26% are unfulfilled by current advancement opportunities.

Although this study spanned across multiple industries, it represents a very human need for direction and growth in our lives. Employers need to make sure they’re satisfying this need for their employees; even if there’s no specific opportunity for upward mobility, you can foster a work environment that values continued learning and improvement.

Beyond the factor of career direction and growth, many workers cited underemployment, undertraining, mismanagement, and work/life imbalance, while only 22% planned on leaving their jobs due to being underpaid. What is your company doing to address these factors?


Workplace Perks to Increase Employee Happiness

On a final note, you’re probably used to hearing about the Bay Area “arms race” between tech companies offering fancy perks to entice and retain their employees. While you may question the actual value of napping rooms, gourmet chefs, and housecleaning benefits, it’s worth noting that there are things you can do to help increase an employee’s daily happiness.

Consider how an employee’s health and wellbeing – both physical and mental – can impact their job performance, and investigate what perks and benefits you could implement accordingly.  For example, the aforementioned CareerBuilder survey found that 40% of workers would appreciate more workday flexibility, such as a half day on Fridays; 22% percent would choose gym memberships or on-site fitness centers and 21% would love to have catered lunches.


The Big Picture

Obviously there is a wide variety of options that can complement an employee’s salary. The importance of considering the big picture cannot be understated; failing to go beyond the simple compensation package runs the risk of retaining people who only care about money and have little regard for responsibilities, accomplishments, or initiatives.

Ultimately, though, surveys and statistics can’t fully reflect the subjective nature of retention. Every candidate is different; what attracts one IT professional may cause indifference in another. With this in mind, your recruiting strategy should place a significant focus on fully evaluating every potential employee, going beyond his or her compensation history, work experience, and skills sets.

If you need help with your recruitment strategy, KORE1 can help. Contact us today.