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2017 Tech Leavers Study Report Released

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The Kapor Center for Social Impact has released the results of the 2017 Tech Leavers Study that looked at the reasons people leave tech roles.  The four key takeaways from the study are:

  1. Unfairness drives turnover
  2. Experiences differ dramatically across groups
  3. Unfairness costs billions each year
  4. Diversity and inclusion initiatives can improve culture and reduce turnover - if they are done right

The study looked at the experiences of over 2000 people in the USA who have left tech roles in the last three years.  The study researched the following questions:

  • What factors contributed to turnover among tech employees?
  • What were tech employees’ workplace experiences, and how did those experiences relate to turnover?
  • Do professionals from diverse backgrounds have unique experiences and/or factors contributing to turnover?
  • What are the financial and reputational costs to employers due to voluntary turnover?
  • What practices can reduce turnover and retain tech professionals from diverse backgrounds?

The results paint a bleak picture of an industry where unfairness seems rife and discrimination is the norm. 37% of the leavers cited unfairness as their primary reason for leabing an organisation:

  • Unfairness or mistreatment within the work environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving, with 37% of the sample indicating that unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company 
  • Unfair treatment was cited more frequently as a reason for leaving than actively seeking a better opportunity (35%), dissatisfaction with the work environment (25%), being recruited away (22%) or dissatisfaction with their job duties/responsibilities (19%). In fact, individuals were almost 2x as likely to leave due to unfair treatment than to be recruited away from an employer 
  • Among the individuals who left their previous employer for other reasons, a portion also cited unfairness in their decision. 15% of the 35% of employees who left to seek a better opportunity indicated that unfairness contributed to the decision to leave. Roughly 25% of those who were recruited away indicated that unfair treatment played a role in their decision 

Breaking that down further, the unfairness was particularly prelevant among underrepresented groups:

  • Underrepresented men of color were most likely to leave due to unfairness (40%) at a rate slightly higher than White/Asian men (39%). Women of color were more likely to cite unfairness as a major reason for leaving than White and Asian women (36% vs. 28%)
  • Unfairness was more pronounced in the tech industry: employees in the tech industry were significantly more likely to leave due to unfairness than technical employees in the non-tech industry (42% v 32%, p<.00)
  • Within tech, technical employees were significantly more likely to leave due to unfairness than those in non-technical positions (40% vs. 32%, p<.00).

The report provides specific advice that organisations can follow to overcome some of the problems.  The largest single factor is implementing a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy provides a larger reduction in unfair experiences than any single initiative alone.  Reccomedations include:

Implement Comprehensive D&I Strategies: Develop and implement a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy that starts with unequivocal leadership from the top and is customized and aligned to your company’s values, culture, and business model. Leadership from the CEO and executive team on diversity and inclusion is critical to the success of any initiatives. 

Create Inclusive Cultures: Strive to create a welcoming culture where differences are valued, empathy is practiced, and respect is fundamental. Identify core values, describe the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace (and all work-related settings), and articulate the expectation of each employee in respecting the boundaries set by their colleagues and company.

Develop Effective and Fair Management Processes:  Audit current compensation and performance management practices for potential biases. Since underrepresented women of color in this study were most likely to report being passed over for promotion—and then leaving—it is critical to audit current promotion practices at regular intervals, and act on the findings.

The full report can be downloaded here

 

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Community comments

  • Confirmation bias

    by Greg Liebowitz /

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    The report immediately suggests "unfairness" supporting the author's position. The perceived role (great tech, interesting problems) vs. the actual position (fixing bugs all day in legacy code) is one of the main reasons I've seen top developers leave good companies. Along with death march projects and ineffectual management, which is rarely worth tolerating in a candidate-driven job market.

  • Life is unfair

    by Bam Ezu /

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    We should sue God.

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