Have you heard? The recession is over. Really? Despite the encouraging signs in macro-economic data, the reality for most technology employees is still one of layoffs, cost cutting, and doing more with less. But if you think you don’t have to worry about turnover in this environment and of losing women in technology, think again.
Research shows that people leave their companies in droves after a recession. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology recently released “Retaining a diverse technical pipeline during and after a recession” a report which reviews the research on the effects of the most common responses to economic hardship that companies implement.
We find that if the previous recessions are any indicator, companies are in for a difficult time in retention once an employment recovery occurs. A spike in turnover has systematically followed past recessions – a phenomenon that Deloitte dubs a “Resume Tsunami” in a recent report on the topic.
Technical women are especially at risk.
– Employee skepticism is at an all time high, due to painful layoffs and cost cutting actions. These practices have hurt employee engagement, a key predictor of turnover. Technical women, who are often isolated and suffer from additional barriers to retention and advancement, were already more at risk of turnover, and the recession has further affected their engagement.
– Faced with a fear of layoff, budget cuts and the pressure to do more with less, work-life practices are out the window for many – women in technology, who are significantly more likely to be in dual-career family situations, are more likely to be further affected.
– Practices focused on employee development, such as training, conference attendance, networking, or leadership classes have been cut or put on hold. These practices are significantly more likely to be important to technical women.
What can companies do at this point? We argue for a renewed focus on the practices that matter for technical employees and technical women – employee development, flexibility, and establishing a mentoring culture. Stanford Professor Bob Sutton said it well in his blog: “companies that have treated people well during the downturn will have an advantage in keeping and retaining the best people –and those that have not damn well better change their ways or will face the prospect of their best people running for the exits in concert with the inability to attract the best people.”