Reacting With Care: Up the Employee Experience

The career opportunities available in the technology sector are seemingly abundant, are they not? That tends to be especially true for designated tech centers. Washington, DC is a prime example despite long being viewed almost exclusively as the seat of America’s federal government. That didn’t stop April Gardner at Curbed from highlighting the fact that our national capital ranked 3rd as a top tech hub across the country. While that might have surprised some outsiders, locals were thrilled with what they considered long overdue recognition. There’s a catch for employers, however, because capturing and retaining top talent with an apparent market surplus is no simple undertaking.

Months before Ms. Gardner published her article, Andy Medici at the Washington Business Journal publicized what some might consider a mass domestic exodus. His own piece cited statistics suggesting population growth in the DC area came entirely from international immigration and newborns.

“Greater Washington’s problems echo similar metro areas that see more people leave than arrive,” explained Andy. “[cities] such as Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have experienced even more anemic population growth.” If Mr. Medici’s assessment is accurate, then employers in the Washington, DC area have demographics to consider.

The first thing employers have to do is recognize the rapidly rising economic pressure being put on millennials – the largest workforce demographic by far. While talent retention isn’t totally about the salary, we can’t expect young professionals to incur unnecessary debt simply to live and work somewhere, especially if that particular setting isn’t conducive to their professional growth. Aaron Greg at The Washington Post emphasized that point last year while describing how mobs of millennials flocked to the district before eventually vamoosing right on out. The key takeaway for DC employers is to offer salaries aligned with the local cost of living but let’s not deceive ourselves, top talent isn’t interested in money alone.

Businesses that plan to successfully capture the most capable minds have to entice them with much more than meets the eye. Forbes contributor, Denise Lee Yohn, already declared that 2018 will be the year of employee experience (EX).

“EX is the sum of everything an employee experiences through his or her connection to the organization,” according to Lee Yohn. “Every interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment.”

In other words, executive leadership should strive to infuse value and meaning into as much as realistically possible. Some employers armed with that knowledge still struggle to forge compelling talent acquisition and retention strategies that rely on more than competitive salaries and benefits packages (e.g., 401(k)s, subsidized healthcare, etc.). That shouldn’t be the case. Mobile development companies trying to mitigate engineering attrition could offer React training in Washington DC or tuition reimbursement programs. Either option would encourage continuous learning and actively contribute to professional growth. Not only would business eventually benefit from the enhanced productivity stemming from enriched employees, but companies would also have the advantage of cultivating a culture of innovation. Though nearly impossible to quantify, the value of innovation is effectively indisputable.

Suffice it to say that recruitment in Washington, DC has some serious complexity to navigate but that doesn’t make it impossible. Step one is clearly understanding the dynamic between the target workforce and the current state of affairs in relevant areas. That means proper due diligence and careful consideration. The next step is creating a workplace ecosystem infused with more than superficialities found elsewhere. Cultivate something special that cannot be replicated–build a community. Leaders must never underestimate the power of people and always seek to enable them. That is the only sure way to preserve talent.


Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.