Greg Harris: Engage Tech Employees Like the Best of Them

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: today’s workplace has an employee engagement problem. Gallup’s daily U.S. Employee Engagement poll of 1,500 employees found an underwhelming 35% of employees are currently engaged at work.

Tech employee engagement, in particular, is on a consistent decline. In fact, a recent survey of 75,000 tech employees by my company, Quantum Workplace, found employee engagement is down three percent since 2013 within the tech industry and ranked fourth among the 17 industries profiled.

Creating engaged employees takes a deliberate approach. Employers and leaders need to start digging into what their team needs to be most successful. So, here’s how to engage tech employees like the best of them:

Create a positive work culture

Companies with highly engaged employees know exactly what their employees need to be motivated, productive, and successful at work. The leaders of these organizations don’t get lucky by guessing what employees need. Instead of mind-melding, they use surveys and employee feedback to create the best working environment for their employees.

Take Guidewire, for instance. Their employees work best at different times of the day and in different locations. So, the insurance software company offers workplace flexibility for their team’s working processes.They believe each employee should have the freedom to complete tasks when they feel most productive and motivated, which means work from home options for those who work best outside of the office.

This level of flexibility can be accomplished through flexible work hours or working remotely for those who perform at their best outside of confined office spaces.

A positive work culture isn’t always about what’s happening in the office. Large companies like Facebook and Airbnb offer unique family benefits to their employees. Airbnb offers maternity and paternity leave well above industry standards, and Facebook is looking to the future by offering an egg freezing option for women.

No matter what benefits your company can afford to offer, it’s crucial to listen to employees’ needs to create a work culture that will help them produce their highest quality of work.

Focus on inclusion

There needs to be a shift in focus when it comes to women in the male-dominated tech field. Deloitte Global predicts, by the end of 2016, fewer than 25 percent of information technology jobs in developed countries will be held by women. This number is excruciatingly low, and companies are missing out on quality employees due to this lack of inclusion.

Named one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women by Fortune in 2015, Hubspot has women at every level of the organization. They continuously focus on creating a supportive and diverse environment by emphasizing gender inclusivity. By bringing in multiple programs, like Women Who Code and Women in Digital, Hubspot empowers and encourages their female team members to continue learning and growing

To understand what your company is missing on inclusivity, gather feedback from employees during frequent one-on-one meetings. Ask specific questions about how they want to grow, what’s keeping them from their goals, and what tools they need in order to excel in both their current role and any future positions they hope to achieve. These questions will give you a firsthand look into what could be hindering workplace inclusion.

Meet in the middle with trust

Having employees who faithfully show up to work every day, correctly complete their tasks, and are amiable is great. But leaders dream of employees who aren’t afraid to dive into their goals head first. Some people on your team may be fearless by nature, but many need a confidence boost. Our previously mentioned survey shows trust in management and leadership ranks as the second highest engagement driver within the tech sector.

Paycom, an Oklahoma-based human resources company, encourages their employees to give constructive feedback to leaders through one-on-one meetings. This 360-degree feedback system includes everyone in the process of making their workplace the best it can be. When your team is able to see their feedback put into place, they can trust employers are taking whatever steps necessary to ensure the company—and its employees—are successful.

Keep the learning coming

The evolution of the tech world is never-ending. This means your employees’ learning should be the same. However, even if courses are available to your team, they may not be aware of the possibilities. In fact, TEK Systems’ 2015 IT Industry Survey: Companies’ Retention Pains are Largely Self-Inflicted report surveyed more than 1,500 IT professionals and found 78 percent of IT leaders say they have training and development programs in place. Unfortunately, only 38 percent of IT professionals say their companies offer training and development.

With positive perception about professional growth and career development opportunities being the third strongest engagement driver among technology employees, according to our data, this disconnect causes a major issue for employee engagement.

If your company has continuing educational training and courses, but many employees aren’t taking advantage of learning, it’s possible they don’t know the opportunities are available. Or, they’re afraid of getting behind on their regular tasks. LinkedIn inspires its tech community to continue learning by setting aside time for special projects, bringing in world-renowned speakers for inspiration, and offering a generous continuing education stipend.

Each one of these tech companies have one thing in common: they know what their employees need in order to succeed both in and out of the office.

Communicate with your tech community to determine what improvements your culture, education, and benefits need to create a highly engaged and successful tech team.

Greg Harris is the president and CEO of Quantum Workplace.