Attrition has been a major issue for organisations in this era of The Great Resignation – none more so than in the tech sector. 

It’s vitally important for tech leaders to create environments that encourage people to stay, rather than edge towards the door. Having worked in tech for decades, I’ve seen first-hand how damaging it can be when teams feel neglected, alienated or demotivated. I would say that people can be retained far longer, and achieve far more, if they are being nurtured by an empathetic boss. 

Listen to empower your team 

It’s actually very simple. For me, listening has been crucial in retaining world class talent, and supporting them in their careers. This is all linked to the ‘servant leadership’ model which is incredibly powerful in the post-COVID era. 

After the pandemic and its various lockdowns, many businesses have adopted the hybrid working model. This has led to employees spending time working from home, away for the hubbub and community support of the office. 

To prevent people feeling isolated and out-of-the-loop, listening has taken on even more significance for leaders, who must now go the extra mile to keep in touch with everyone, whether online or face-to-face, and show they care.

In childhood, I arrived in the UK as a refugee from Bosnia. My family and I built a new future from nothing, having lived through the disruption and trauma of a war. This experience, I believe, has instilled a high degree of resilience in me, and informs my empathetic leadership style. 

I have always been a good listener, able to understand when people are facing tough times in their personal or working lives. Certainly, today my colleagues will tell you, I have a very open, ‘tell me anything’ approach to people management. 

Exceptional servant leaders care more for their team than themselves. They focus intently on the development and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. And the servant-leader distributes power amongst others first and supports people to grow and operate as optimally as possible.

I think the best servant leaders are able to help their teams feel more connected to the organisation, its vision and goals. Such leaders aren’t afraid to push for change, and they know how to come back strong from a setback. Lastly, they lead by example and will treat others as they want to be treated. 

As study after study shows, colleagues who feel valued, empowered and trusted enjoy their work more, get more done, and stay in their jobs longer. Equally, employees participating in decision-making processes feel more assured that their opinions are respected, even when business challenges are being faced. 

Listen to get personal & maintain morale 

Serving as a leader is about facilitating people’s performance, goals, and aspirations. In that way you’re serving who they want to be, or what they want to achieve. This, to me, seems like a fail-safe way to boost morale in your team, which will directly impact retention levels. I operate an open-door policy, which applies not just to those that work directly for me, but for my entire organisation.

Being available and approachable is absolutely vital if you want your team to view you as empathetic. If there’s something on their mind or something they need help with, they should feel comfortable getting in touch directly. 

After all, in today’s ever-changing world, many are choosing the role based on who they will work for. It is no longer about the money and money alone. Tech professionals are seeking flexibility, and they want to be understood, to be trusted. 

On a practical level, this requires a leader who is always asking about people’s needs, anxieties and challenges, and of course, acting on what they learn. Be alert to what people don’t say, their body language, and the tone of their voice, as they might be covering up problems. Your own body language should not block either – remember to lean in to show you’re engaged in the conversation, and mirror your colleague’s body language. 

Colleagues’ talents need to be acknowledged and appreciated every single day, and it’s down to me to do that. This can all take a little time, and make your working day longer, but it translates directly into higher retention rates, even at the moment. Sometimes, it is little things like picking up the phone after a presentation to complement the story-telling. Without doubt gestures like this boost morale. 

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Listen to boost business 

When people in the business feel empowered, they pass on that trust in their dealings with customers, which is great for business. Employees who are managed with empathy also realise that management is looking out for their higher interests, and are more likely to perform optimally.

On the other hand, disengaged employees can create roadblocks and stop caring about their work. There’s more absenteeism, which can result in resentment from others who have to pick up the slack. Engaged employees are and will be your best advertisement for new employees – singing your praises to others who might work for you, and helping new hires understand your company culture.

From my experience, I have seen how truly caring about someone as a person can unlock an infinite amount of trust and authenticity. It can tear down walls of fear and bridge oceans of uncertainty. Earlier in my career, seeing how my manager wanted the best for me was my biggest motivation to exceed his expectations day after day after day.  

And of course, staff grow and develop their skills more rapidly in an environment that supports learning, decision-making, growth opportunities, and cooperation between teams. All these plus points, driven by a leader who listens, will impact the bottom line. It’s not a short-term fix either. Organisations that build a solid reputation for being supportive, fare well in a recruitment crisis, and should attract and retain all the highly skilled people they need to prosper in the long-term.

People feel more valued in their roles if you take the time to listen to them. Employee satisfaction and engagement often comes down to who you work for, and how empathetic that person is to your needs. Do they listen? Do they really care? Do they spot when someone needs help? 

If employees are getting the right degree of support, they will thrive in the business, and in themselves. I regularly ask myself: What rituals have you put in place to ensure you’re always listening?

‘I was advised to work in a prison – but I’m glad I chose tech’