Get the culture right and you’re on the road to running a business where your people share your goals and values, and who want to grow with you. As your biggest asset, you’ll want to do all you can to retain your best people.

To help you to get started, here are some of the most valuable takeaway tips from the recent Threads meetup discussion with founders and senior managers on the subject of retention;

“Firms with the right culture will be seeing significantly fewer people leaving”


The cost of a good engineer leaving the business is typically six months’ salary. Double that for a management level colleague.

Stay mindful that your business contains really important people at all levels. Recognise their individual contributions and take steps to keep them on board.

Acquisitions tend to focus on the numbers rather than on the culture, which can often break the culture that underlies the acquired business’s success.

There are three main reasons why staff leave: lack of interesting work, lack of career progression and issues with their immediate manager.

Employers who view people as a unit which can be treated as a whole or, worse – simply as bodies – risk poor morale and high attrition rates. Any team is a collection of individuals – so treat them that way.

It’s often the simple, easily remedied, things that erode satisfaction at work. Encourage your managers to notice these things and empower them to make change happen.

For engineers, work becoming stale is a key concern. In fact, this is on a par with burnout from overload. Take care to allocate work accordingly.

Don’t underestimate the fluffier, more instinctive, approaches to staying in touch with staff views and aspirations, achieved by investing just a few quality moments with individuals regularly.

Encourage your managers to remain in touch with the person behind the employee – life goals, learning aspirations, what they’d like to do in parallel or next.

It’s often a few ‘bad apples’ who pollute the desired culture. They may be doing a good job, but undermine team spirit with poor attitudes and beliefs. Identify and ‘unblock’ them, taking decisive action if necessary.

A looser company structure opens opportunities for staff to try new things, to expand, and to fulfil their professional development. It can also avoid divisions forming within the business.

“Create career paths that focus on technical excellence, not that automatically lead to a management position”


Giving engineers visibility of the longer term strategy aids productivity as they can better understand the purpose, mission and context.

Even when people accept a counter offer to stay, they often leave anyway within a short period of time. It’s best to accept that a counter offer will probably just buy you a few months to mitigate their eventual departure.

Create career paths that focus on technical excellence, not that automatically lead to a management position. Leaders take many forms, and not everyone wants to work through others.

Don’t chase the wealthiest or most dominant firms on salary terms alone, compete on your own culture.

It’s perfectly acceptable for your best engineers to be paid more than their managers. Recognise the value they generate and reward accordingly.

Threads meetups are a way for founders and department heads of technology companies to share learning, experiences and conundrums. These roundtable discussions unpack topics around leadership, business and operations. Most people find at least one improvement to take away and implement.

Threads is held at 6.30 – 8.30pm on the first Wednesday of each month. Its next meetup, on Wednesday 4 October,  focuses in on GDPR and why tech businesses should be preparing now. To RSVP, head to the Threads South West meetup page

Keep an eye out for more Threads guest blogs coming to TechSPARK soon.

Andrew Gifford