Who Walks Away from a 6-Figure Salary? Tech Turnover Explained

Posted By Terri Williams on May 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm
Who Walks Away from a 6-Figure Salary? Tech Turnover Explained

These are boom times for the tech industry. You’ve heard the numbers: The average salary for a U.S. tech industry worker stands at $108,900, although wages can reach much higher numbers. Recent research puts U.S. tech employment at 7.3 million workers – and rising. However, according to the Tech Leavers Study by the Kapor Center for Social Impact, tech turnover is a thing: Some workers walk away from high-paying jobs.

As it turns out, this isn’t as crazy it seems at first glance. Take a look below at some of the reasons for tech turnover.

Negative factors driving tech turnover

Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” Onovakpuri, one of the study’s authors, tells GoodCall®, “In our study of over 2,000 professionals who left a tech job or function in the past three years, we found that ‘unfairness’ or mistreatment was the single most frequent reason for leaving.”

Unfairness is a broad term that could encompass a variety of actions. Onovakpuri defines the term using four categories – people management practices, stereotyping, sexual harassment, and bullying – in which both subtle and overt actions of unfairness were likely to result in turnover.

Experiences varied depending on an employee’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. For example:

  • LGBTQ employees reported higher levels of bullying than any other group.
  • Underrepresented women of color were most likely to be passed over for promotions.
  • Underrepresented people of color (both men and women) were much more likely to experience stereotyping than their White/Asian peers.

“Tech is a microcosm of society, where underrepresented groups frequently experience these forms of unfairness and mistreatment, so while we would hope tech environments would be more inclusive, the reality is they replicate societal behaviors,” Onovakpuri says.

The perceived unfair treatment costs the companies involved as well. “We estimated the cost of unfairness-related turnover by calculating the total number of individuals who voluntarily left the nationwide computing workforce each year (estimated 6.15% yearly turnover rate), and multiplied this number by the rate of leaving due to unfairness (37% in this study) to get a total yearly estimate for the number of employees leaving due to unfairness,” Onovakpuri explains.

“We then multiplied this number by the estimated costs for replacement of full-time employees, with the salary derived from the actual employee salaries in this study (1.5x annual salary, at $144,834.24).”

While behemoth tech companies are spending millions in an attempt to attract diverse talent,

Onovakpuri warns that they must be just as committed to doing what’s necessary to retain employees. “A critical place to start is to have a serious commitment and focus on creating inclusive and bias-free workplace cultures that start with the highest levels of company leadership.”

This includes making diversity and inclusion a priority – not just with lip service, but by also allocating funds for these initiatives.

“Evaluating people management practices for biases and implementing effective and fair management practices are also critical to ensuring all employees have the same opportunities to be valued and be successful,” Onovakpuri says. “The overall goal should be to create environments that are supportive, welcoming, and provide optimal spaces for innovation, leadership and creativity, while also providing fair compensation, management, promotion and growth opportunities for all employees.”

Positive factors driving tech turnover

Unfair treatment is not the only reason tech employees are leaving jobs. Some depart for greener pastures and an abundance of opportunities. Jennifer Roddy Selden, regional recruiting director at Randstad Technologies, tells GoodCall®, “The demand for technology professionals has never been higher thanks to an increase in innovation.”

Thanks to these innovations, there are thousands of positions available for employees looking for better salaries and new opportunities.  “The demand for candidates with specialty skills such as Java, Big Data and cloud computing far exceeds the talent pool and employers must offer competitive salaries to attract and retain qualified candidates,” Selden says. “These job seekers are not only aware of their financial value but are looking for a wider range of opportunities and are transitioning to new positions at a faster pace.”

In fact, Randstad recommends job-hopping for employees in the tech industry. Those employees who are in high demand can afford to take chances that the average non-tech worker cannot. “The perception of the workforce has evolved in terms of standard job tenure as well as a desire for a work-life balance,” Selden says. “Whether through job-hopping or by shifting to an agile work arrangement as a contractor, consultant or temporary or freelance worker, employees are taking more control of their careers and choosing jobs that better fit their lifestyles and professional goals.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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