How to retain key employees in IT

Retaining key employees is a real “headache” for managers at all levels of a company.

Qualified specialists with necessary knowledge and skills, rich experience and high performance are the main capital of any company.

Retaining a talented employee that you invested so much in is often a challenge. In this article we will try to explain why people leave and share some methods on how to keep them motivated and stay with you for years. 


Why do they leave?

First you need to understand why people leave your company. Try asking yourself some questions, like 

  • Does my company provide enough opportunities for personal development? 
    Lack of personal development is one of the top reasons talented professionals leave your company. They want to learn more and get better at what they are doing.

  • Is my team overworked?
    Excessive overwork often becomes a push for a job change. Mostly this happens with professional employees who are often loaded with work because of their high qualification level and competency.
    However, even the most diligent workers sooner or later lose their working impetus. That's when they think about changing jobs and finding one where they will not have to work so much for the same salary.

  • Is there any tense situation within the team?
    Negativity in a team leads to stress among employees. This in turn affects their mood as well as their efficiency and productivity. If the situation inside the company is tense, team members do not find a common language. Skirmishes and scandals happen and you can be sure that people in such a situation will not stay long in your company. 

  • Does my team trust the management?
    This is about the business and personal qualities of the company's leader, which may be unacceptable for key employees. Good specialists who value their reputation will not work with a manager who does not comply with professional ethics in relation to clients and partners.
    Delays in the payment of wages, violations of labor laws and frequent fines also do not contribute to building trusting relationships with management.

  • Does my company provide career growth for employees?
    For highly qualified specialists, a permanent team and stability is not a priority. They want to develop and move forward on the career ladder. If your company does not provide opportunities for growth, most likely they will begin to look for another job.

    Remember, the employee market is very competitive and many companies are  fighting for qualified professionals offering them professional growth, challenging projects, new opportunities and even higher salaries.
    The only way to retain employees is to become a truly attractive employer, by creating the right culture, atmosphere and team spirit within the company. If you treat your employees well - they will pay you back for years.


Employee retention methods

This is about motivation. Two methods of motivating valuable employees are:

  • financial
  • non-financial

The best way is to combine these two approaches and create a strategy that will work for you and your employees. The priority of a given method in each organization is different. It depends on the financial capabilities of the company, the style of personnel management and the specific employee that you want to keep.

Let's have a closer look into it.


It's all about the money… Or not?

For centuries, wages have been a powerful material motivator. The scenario is well-known: there is a salary - the team is working, there is no salary - the work is idle.

Forms of material encouragement may be different:

  • Salary increase 
    So far one of the easiest, but effective methods is to reward employees financially. True, there are a number of reasons why it is not always possible to apply it in every single company (budget constraints, the economic situation in general, etc.)
    However, that shouldn’t be the first option, as usually the happiness from the raise only lasts for 2-5 months depending on the person.

  • Social package
    Most companies offer certain benefit packages to their employees. Consider making it more competitive. You can include benefits like extra free food options, assistance with housing for non-residents, use of corporate cars, travel vouchers or something else at your discretion.

    You can also check what your competitors offer and grab ideas from them. The main thing to remember is that a social package means long-term care for the comfort of employees.

  • Bonuses
    Bonuses are those small or big monetary rewards in addition to the basic salary that encourage the employee to work better.  Bonuses are paid for the closure of a complex project, meeting a deadline, working on weekends, business trips, completing studies in advanced training, getting certified, etc.
    The main benefit is that the bonuses are not perceived by employees as regular compensation, because in this case they lose their value. Bonuses should keep them motivated to work hard in order to earn the bonus.

  • Gifts
    Everyone loves gifts. Thoughtful gifts (depending on the budget) increase the loyalty of employees. Gifts can range from calendars, notepads and cups with corporate symbols to certificates, electronics or even trips.
    However, for a key employee, material remuneration is important, but it is not the main factor that he will consider when thinking about changing jobs. After all, money is only an incentive. There is an equally important thing to take into consideration. This is the inner attitude and desire to work in the company, along with it and for it.


Keep your key employees motivated

There are many ways to keep valuable employees with non-financial incentives. The distinguishing feature is that the employee is the main character here. Their aspirations, opportunities, fears and desires are paramount. You need to remember about then when developing your own system of motivation.

Susan M. Heathfield “No matter what climate your organization provides to support employee motivation, you can create an environment that fosters and calls forth motivation from employees”. 


We offer several effective working methods that will help you not only to retain your employees, but also to create the right atmosphere within your organization.

  1. “One-on-one” work
    Take some time to know more of your employees’ lives. Chat with your subordinates. Ask about what's going on and what are they worried about. This will help you to establish an emotional connection and increase their loyalty to you as a leader.
  2. Principles of “open doors” and “frame extension”
    Let employees have more freedom in making decisions and listen to their ideas. Perhaps some employee has already mastered all his work and wants to improve. Expand the scope of work with new higher level responsibilities. Give the employee authority to execute them. This will help develop his skills and knowledge.

  3. “Clear”  meetings
    Meetings are a powerful tool for motivating employees. A specific day, time and format of the meeting of subordinates and management give workers a sense of stability and confidence. In addition, during such meetings, experts have the opportunity to get feedback on their proposals and discuss important issues.
  4. Training and internship
    Keep a development plan for each employee of your company. Stimulate them to learn. There are many ways you can do this: from seminars and online courses to studies in specialized educational institutions. Let them develop existing skills or acquire new ones - in any case, this increase in expertise is beneficial to both the employee and a manager.

  5. Coaching
    Offer a coaching program if you need to convince a person to remain in the team. Coaching is similar to a session with a psychotherapist. Its main goal is clarification of motives and the main tool is feedback. During the conversation, you can identify problems that may cause an employee to leave and try to solve them in a way that is acceptable to both parties.


Treat a leaving employee well

Anything can happen in life, and unfortunately, not a single manager is insured against the risk of losing a key employee. As the saying goes, “a man can do no more than he can”.

In a situation when the employee’s decision to quit is unshakable, try to let them go kindly and with dignity. Tell them that it was a pleasure to work together and offer to write a recommendation letter or leave a recommendation on Linkedin.  Who knows, perhaps they will come back some day.


Eliminating the Risks

To reduce the possible negative effects of a qualified employee leaving, you can implement some simple best practices that can help you out.

  1. Document everything
    Good documentation should contain not only your product business logic description but also a list of technologies used with their versions specified, links and credential details for all third party services with purpose descriptions included and descriptions of all key elements of your software (like servers, security systems, etc.).
    It is good to have a typical onboarding plan for every position in your team with a list of duties. A description of technical and management standards that you follow in your company is crucial.

  2. Create a process for delegating key employees’ tasks
    Make it a rule to delegate the tasks of higher-ranking employees to members of a lower-ranking team (or employees from other departments). In this way you will free up the valuable time of top employees and prepare a reliable replacement for them (just in case).

  3. Take advantage of  independent experts
    It is very helpful to involve independent professionals in business areas in which you are not an expert. This will help to prevent failure at any stage of the working process and it won’t have such a big impact if the specialist who was responsible for it quits.



Being a good employer is subtle science. The main thing is to see each talented employee as a promising business asset that grows and develops within your business.

As long as the interests of the company overlaps with the interests of employees, your goals are aligned and there is a field for growth and experimentation - they are more likely to stay with you for a long time. And if not - you know what to do.


Daria HR Manager
HR Manager
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