All organisations thrive when they have great people focused on a clear purpose.  This is especially true in technology, which relies so much on teamwork and complementary skills to deliver real impact.

Attracting and retaining the best people has been a challenge in the technology sector for as long as I can remember.  The overall demand keeps growing as the sector expands and there is not enough training and development going on to produce a pipeline of talent.

I believe retention needs to be of equal importance as recruitment.  The way you inspire people is essential to making sure the best people stay, which is not only much lower risk and less disruptive than recruitment but also more cost effective.

While we know it’s not easy – building and retaining a great team gives you a competitive advantage and ultimately creates a better place for everyone to work.

Retention – keeping the people you’ve got

There has been lot of talk recently about the ‘great resignation’. As the impact of the pandemic reduces, people are considering their working lives and many have decided to move on. Research published by HR software firm Personio, last year, found that four in ten employees (38%) in the UK and Ireland were planning to change roles and this increased to 55% of 18-34 year olds.

We can speculate about the reasons. Did people hunker down in their job until the market picked up? Are staff burnt out? Do they want more flexible working?

It’s tricky to answer these questions across the board – but here are some key things we need to do:

  1. Reviews and development meetings should be ongoing: Find out from your teams how they feel – how they see the future working with you. Then put in a place a plan where they can see that future being achievable
  2. Benchmarking: Review the salaries of your team, then see which ones you need to address, before the individual does. It’s also a great way of reducing gender pay gaps.
  3. Put the right culture, rewards, benefits and training in place.


The key thing is to be very clear about what you are looking for and to move quickly because good talent will be snapped up if the process takes too long.

Tech leaders need to consider everything from introducing apprenticeship programmes like we did when I was CIO at Channel 4, to making sure we get the right blend of internal and third party resource.

The reality is that there is a huge potential talent pool that is not being utilised and this means there is a huge opportunity.

In order to make real headway, CIOs and technology leaders need to work together with HR/recruitment and schools, colleges and Universities, to tackle the lack of diversity and reassess how we attract people into tech/digital roles. Key considerations:

Not everyone in Technology is a ‘techie’

  • There are a huge range of skills through product and project management, user research as well as architecture, design and development. There will be times you may be able to access skills from other departments/teams within your own organisation.

Keep recruitment simple

  • You could use a ‘Try before you buy’ scheme, where a trained professional comes in as a contractor first and then you have the opportunity to take them on as a permanent member of staff if the role is right for both parties
  • Matching services, like Fused4, matches candidates to roles. Both the employer and candidate have to express an interest before moving on to the formal process, making it more effective and often cost effective.

The 4 A’s rule

  • If someone is a great fit in terms of attitude, aptitude and application you can often develop their ability

Why people Stay or Join

It is a very competitive market for good people and therefore salaries need to reflect this, combined with other benefits like flexible working, parental leave and training/development support so that professionals remain up to date..

This is often a challenge, particularly in many public sector organisations, when HR teams find it difficult to understand why they are paying someone who ‘just sits there to write code’ £80,000 while they have someone else running a huge department on £60,000. This is the issue and this is why it is important to reassess out of date talent management frameworks.

Look at outputs not inputs.  At Channel 4 we introduced a 9 day fortnight.  Initially I was concerned about productivity but this was more than repaid in commitment, well-being and loyalty.

At 4OC, colleagues work a variety of patterns depending on what suits their life best. Ultimately, staff want the flexibility and if they can’t make their lives work then they will go elsewhere.

Once these basics are in place, longer term what matters is brand and culture. Sustainability has also risen up the agenda for organisations and individuals, and will continue to do so – technology can help reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint and this focus will only become more important to future talent.

Making a change

Here at 4OC we help organisations build teams and the right culture. Please get in touch if you want to talk team or technology.

Feel free to email with any comments or questions you have.