Tech employees love to move around, as seen in our recent research that showed that the median tenure length of employees at titans of tech was 23 months. This mobility has much less to do with pay since all these companies pay well and more to do with opportunity and that many people enjoy new challenges and opportunities. The effect of having your brightest talent recruited away or leaving on their own volition can be destabilizing and cost you in revenues that now will not materialize. Most experts agree that losing an employee can cost several times their annual salary, or in the case of a truly brilliant employee it can be three hundred times their value as found by Google’s HR analytics team. Competition is hotter than ever with almost all the companies on this list continuing to expand and thousands of other startups competing to snatch away their best to the less restrictive confines of a small agile team. Between 2005 and 2009 there were lots of no solicitation agreements around Silicon Valley that prevented the biggest names from actively stealing from each other. In 2009 this practice largely came to an end and has since cost these companies nearly half a billion dollars in legal costs and settlements. The result is that the job market is better than ever and a mildly dis-satisfied employee can easily be pulled away into the promise of a new environment.
We decided to look to see where employees are going by analyzing thousands of Linkedin records for people who have worked at one of these tech titans and then looking at where they immediately went to next. Our research found that to many companies their largest competitor is education. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft employees were more likely to go back to education than any other specific company. This was largely due to them taking an internship program and then going back to be a research or teaching assistant. In many cases these very people then went on to either go back to work at the place they interned for or to work for another tech titan. Another interesting find was the near revolving door between Google and Facebook where an almost equal number of employees simply jump from one to the other. Given their co-location Amazon and Microsoft are also engaged in a revolving door of employees coming and going.
Tenure length for these tech titans is low across the board but varies between companies. Facebook had both the lowest tenure length and the highest amount of interns (just over 25%).
Continuing education is obviously important for many employees but it’s possible this can be somewhat mitigated by allowing them to do so while employed with the company or just by simply offering more opportunity for personal development. Holding on to employees in their 20s and early 30s is challenging enough but when there exists plenty of opportunity for something new it makes it that much harder. It requires constant vigilance to keep employees engaged and make sure they haven’t started to bore of their jobs. HR managers must keep on the lookout for employees who feel they have hit a ceiling, or just have a boss that isn’t personally interested in their success, doesn’t show appreciation or support their employees correctly. Gallup has found time and time again that the boss is key: having support, knowing what is expected of you, getting appreciation and helping you amplify your strengths are all key to retaining talent.