Best Practice in Retention

Retention Guidelines

Welcome to our Tech Talent Charter retention guidelines page. These guidelines are designed to give you some practical suggestions around retention to help improve the diversity of your technology workforce, particularly the gender balance.

We have created these guidelines in consultation with a number of thought leaders and influencers both male and female from the HR and technology sectors from start-ups to big corporates. After recruitment which seems to be the greatest challenge, the second issue is managing to retain female employees within technical roles. Whilst much research indicates that businesses with greater diversity benefit from higher employee satisfaction, greater product innovation, quicker speed to market and ultimately higher revenue, the data says that women leave the tech field to work in management or other fields.

The guidelines are split into three themes: Career path & Development, Engagement & Culture and Internal Environment.

 Career Path & Development  Engagement & Culture Internal Environment
  • Career pathways
  • Development plans
  • Reward & Benefits
  • Learning & Development
  • Promotion
  • Succession planning
  • Policies (flexible working, maternity, paternity, grading, etc.)
  • Parent-friendly culture
  • Reporting gender data set
  • Mentoring circle
  • Unconscious bias
  • Performance management

Early work by the Tech Talent Charter team focussed on the most important fields within each theme: Career Pathways, Policies and Mentoring Circle.  Contributions and comments are welcomed from TTC signatory employers on these fields and on the remaining fields in the table above, that are currently under development, e.g rlearning & development, promotion, performance management.

These guidelines are designed to suggest some practical ways you can create a more gender balanced approach to retaining your staff, and improving the diversity of your workforce.

Saray Cruz
Saray Cruz /Manager, Technology Strategy & Architecture Practice, Consulting, Deloitte
“At Deloitte we have the Women in Technology network (community) as part of our overall women’s agenda in recognition of the need for a technology-focused effort in order to recruit and retain female talent in this industry. We also have a Women in Leadership programme to support women as they progress into leadership roles.”
Shilpa Shah
Shilpa Shah /Director, Consulting, Analytics & Information Management and Women in Tech Network Lead
“These groups allow the communities to feel supported, share experiences and learn from each other whilst also providing access to role models to support the personal and professional development aspirations of the community.”

Career Pathways

One of the main ways to retain your employees is for them to have a clear vision of where they want their career to go while taking into consideration all aspects of their life and you enabling that vision to happen, while taking into consideration the business need.
Here are several points an employer can put in place to enable such discussions to start:
  • Have a description of what career paths can take place within your business, and more specifically how people can grow in your tech department.
  • Develop a description by skillset and task for each existing career level: you can divide the skillset on technical skills, compulsory and required, as well as soft skills, compulsory and required.
  • Create a career map of where the roles sit within the different departments.

Now you are ready to draft the career paths that exist within your business. Take into consideration all the different career pathways possible: vertical path, dual career ladders, horizontal moves.

  • Remember that female employees may be going on maternity leave, or may need more flexibility in work due to family commitments.
  • Progressing in a career does not always mean becoming a manager of people, recognise the wants and needs of everyone, e.g. developers may want to be experts in their field and not team leaders. Wherever possible create a possible life story example so it is easier to identify with the career pathways (i.e. bring it alive with story telling).
  • There should be on-going open discussions between managers and their line reports on their career development and career vision, with review milestones. Be transparent about promotional opportunities. As a manager, sponsor your females if they are aspiring to be promoted.
  • Train your employees not just for their current role but also for their future roles. Data shows that women tend not to apply for an internal or external job if they do not feel they have at least 80% of the skillset so it is essential they are trained, coached and mentored for their next steps.
  • Support the people returning from career break or maternity leave by having KIT (Keeping in Touch) days, so they feel at ease returning to work. These could be used to attend conferences or training.
  • Seek to use your internal talent pools first when filling vacancies. Before looking externally, look at succession and talent plans to ensure that you are creating good career opportunities for your people. Train your people who are part of any calibration or performance management process on unconscious bias to ensure that you have good open debate about all your people’s career pathways.

Engagement & Culture

To enable a culture of diversity you first need to ensure you have the policies in place for your diverse workforce to thrive.


Policies are a major means to ensure you have a diverse workforce as it is the set of standards which the business need to follow and report.

In a TTC 2016 focus group, the major policy that all attendees mentioned was the importance of having a Flexible working policy in place.  Hence we have decided to focus on this policy first and foremost.

Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.  Since June 2014, all employees in Great Britain have had the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.  The legislation differs slightly in Northern Ireland.

Example of flexible working and example of flexible working policy

Flexible Working (e.g. part-time working, with reduced pro-rated pay and benefits)

E.g. 3 days a week/25 hours a week, flexible working hours with flexible start times or increasing time worked from home or alternative locations.

Example of a Flexible Working Policy in an Employee Handbook

Employees with more than 26 weeks length of service may request flexible working:

  • A change to the hours you work;
  • A change to the times when you are required to work; and
  • To work from home (for all or part of the week)
    1. Your right to flexible working is designed to meet your needs as an employee and also the needs of the Company. The Company’s flexible working policy aims to facilitate discussion and encourage you and the Company to consider flexible working patterns and find a solution that suits both you and the Company.
    2. There may be circumstances when the Company is unable to accommodate your desired work pattern.
    3. You must think carefully about your desired work pattern when making your application and the Company undertakes to follow the procedure set out below to ensure that your request is considered seriously.

Process on Asking for Flexible Working

  • If the employee is thinking about requesting flexible working, the line manager should encourage an open discussion with them, and discuss how it could work and how to support them. Both parties should seek advice from the HR team to support them if needed.  The HR team can also help on how it affects salary, pension, holiday etc.
  • They should discuss how the flexible working would work for the rest of the team, and practicalities.
  • The business must consider the request of flexible working seriously and justify the reasons if they decide it is not possible to accept the request. If there is uncertainty of whether it will work or not, because it’s the first time the company has allowed it, it’s helpful to have an initial trial period of flexible working to see how it works.
  • If the employee requests flexible working on returning to work from a break, the Company could allow them to return part time in staggered stages part time, within set timeframes. e.g. A first year of two days a week, when a child is younger, increasing to four days a week in the second year.
  • Businesses should be understanding and supportive about the initial transitions in returning back to work.

A Selection of Other Examples of Policies

  • Working from home when appropriate.
  • Unconscious bias and diversity training
  • Training on recruitment and on interviewing for anyone involved in selection, including line managers, and other people involved in the decision making process.
  • Open internal advertising of all roles.
Jane Middleton
Jane Middleton - Managing Consultant – part time desk Oakleaf Partnership “As an experienced HR Generalist and Recruiter in the part time space who has worked in different industries where technology roles are critical for business success, the following is definitely true. If businesses don’t acknowledge the value that workers wanting flexibility and part time working patterns can bring then they will be left behind and will regret their reticence to accommodate these individuals (many of whom are women)”

Internal Environment

Creating a mentoring culture is an important way of creating a culture that supports and embraces diverse talent and talent management.Hence we have first focused on what is mentoring, what it involves and what are the benefit of such a culture.

Mentoring Circle

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring involves a development relationship between a more experienced ‘mentor’, sharing their experience with a less experienced person who is keen to learn from them.   It is about providing expert advice and guidance, taking individuals under one’s wing and providing a role model to aspire to.

Mentor/mentee relationships can be formally or informally organised within the business, or across companies and sectors.

The mentor should not have any direct line responsibility or input into salary/appraisal decisions of their mentee.  They are not the line manager.

What Does it Involve?

Internal and external networks are critical to accelerating performance.  Job-focused, information-rich networks have a tremendous impact on improving your potential to be promoted to, and succeed at, the next level within the organization.  Research has shown that men typically socialize in similar networks with the people they work with whereas women’s social networks are very different to their work networks. For that reason it’s important to encourage your female talent to take time to network within a business context.  

How Much Does it Cost?

Mentoring can be set up very easily internally and thus shouldn’t cost more than the time of your employees.

What are the benefits? What does the Company get out of it?

Effective mentoring programs benefit the mentor and the organization by promoting a development culture, increasing knowledge sharing, driving performance, and expanding networks, as detailed below:

  • Creates a culture of development
  • Drives employee engagement and retention
  • Fosters productivity and performance
  • Increases cross-organizational communication
  • Provides a low-cost development opportunity
  • Engagement from mentee and mentors.

What do the Mentor and Mentee get out of it?

Benefits to the Mentee

  • Accelerates development. Helps self-awareness of their behavior.
  • Enhances self-esteem and confidence when interacting with senior leaders
  • Expands the individual’s professional network
  • Increases job satisfaction and effectiveness
  • Increases perspective and knowledge of different functions

What does the mentor get out of it?

  • Expands the mentor’s professional network
  • Improves leadership skills, helping guide a less experienced talent.
  • Increases awareness of challenges and opportunities encountered by people at earlier stage of career. Reality check on what other junior people are going through.
  • Increases visibility throughout the sector, and understanding of other areas.

What do you have to do to start?

Sometimes a company or organisation can formally match volunteer mentors with appropriate mentees. Alternatively, it can happen more organically and an individual can ask someone more experienced, and they respect to be their mentor.   Often the mentor is delighted to be able to help another person, and willing to share their experience.

To build an effective mentoring relationship, the two people must establish what they would like to get out of the initial meetings. This is critical in setting a strong foundation on which to build the relationship.

Understand the role of a mentee

Spending time at the beginning of the relationship clarifying what each party can legitimately expect to give and get through mentoring is essential.  It is especially beneficial for the individuals involved to discuss, negotiate and agree upon expectations. The mentee must be an active learner in this relationship, but also an active participant in furthering the development of the mentor.  The mentee must be open to sharing their career goals, successes, and failures, and receiving feedback and advice.

  • Establish the expectations of mentor’s role in the relationship
  • Define the goals for the mentoring relationship
  • Create the foundation for a trusting relationship – it is critical to build trust and clearly establish expectations at the beginning of the partnership
  • Build an action plan – to achieve long-term career objectives that are established at the beginning of the relationship. The mentor should help the mentee to determine where to focus and how best to accomplish career goals
  • Identify effective discussion topics – should be centred on the specific goals both parties agree for the relationship
  • Identifying mentoring activities e.g. skill development, knowledge sharing, networking, career advice
  • Foster an effective relationship – prioritising catch up meetings throughout the relationship is critical in order for both to benefit fully from the relationship
Veronique Rapetti
Veronique Rapetti - Business Mentor, President Young Chamber of Commerce F-GB, Programme Director – Learning & Partnerships New Entrepreneurs Foundation “As a woman, in the technology sector, to succeed is about having a strong mindset and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Find and surround yourself with people who have the same ambition as you and forget about the “negative” noise that may come your way because you are a woman! Sometimes, and I have seen this in my line of work, having the support of an executive coach can help you in refining your vision and building your self-confidence. Or alternatively, go out and find yourself a business mentor, someone who has done it and is willing to share their experience and support you and your career.”
Veronique Rapetti
Veronique Rapetti - Business Mentor, President Young Chamber Of Commerce F-GB, Programme Director – Learning & Partnerships New Entrepreneurs Foundation As a woman in the technology sector, to succeed is about having a strong mindset and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Find and surround yourself with people who have the same ambition as you and forget about the “negative” noise that may come your way because you are a woman! Sometimes, and I have seen this in my line of work, having the support of an executive coach can help you in refining your vision and building your self-confidence. Or alternatively, go out and find yourself a business mentor, someone who has done it and is willing to share their experience and support you and your business.”

Recognize What Mentoring Is and Is Not

It is important that both mentee and mentor recognize what does and does not constitute a mentoring relationship, as detailed below:
Mentoring is…… Mentoring is not………
Development tool- It is a development program that grows knowledge, network, and careers. The process allows more experienced individuals to support and develop other less experienced people. Guarantee of promotion – A mentoring relationship provides no assurance of promotion or increase in compensation. However, both parties may develop competencies and skills that improve overall job performance.
Knowledge sharing opportunity – It is a process that improves cross functional knowledge sharing and facilitates the flow of information and ideas. Replacement for formal development – Mentoring cannot take the place of formal training, but rather should augment formal development activities
Community and Sector Enhancer – It can help employees better understand the sector and community.  Understand the ways to do things and not, and the dynamics of the sector. Management Replacement – The mentor should not take on the responsibilities of the mentee’s manager
Employee assistance program – mentoring is not an employee assistance program  that provides employees with counselling on personal issues

Difference between mentoring and coaching

Mentoring and coaching differ in their objectives, impacts and duration as detailed below:
Mentoring Coaching
Helps facilitate growth and development in career path. Assesses and improves an individual’s performance or behaviour in a particular area.
Concentrates on the individual’s development needs and goals bases on his/her career aspirations Concentrates on identified issues with clear goals to develop specific skills and behaviours
Mutually benefits both the mentor and mentee Sets a time-bound relationship defined to meet specific goals and objectives.
Build a long- term relationship dependent upon participants performance through various career stages