5 Ways to Keep Your Engineering Talent From Jumping Ship
Developers are in monstrously short supply in Silicon Valley. In the face of demand from bubble-valued start-ups and tech companies, anyone who can spell "Java" seems to think they're doing you a favor just showing up for work. Many tech companies react to this by laying on the benefits: high pay, options, video games in the break room and so on - yet this doesn't drive loyalty.
The reality for many companies is that giving developers what they want doesn't result in companies getting what they or the developers need. The trick is to align incentives so that what you need is aligned with what everyone wants to do, while still having fun along the way. So, here are some of the ways that leaders can try to get everyone on the same page:
1. Have clear process and business goals.
When you start your company, organization is pretty easy, provided that everyone knows their role. As you grow, the organization increasingly needs to develop a working rhythm around which the company can coordinate. It's critical to articulate the working structure and bake it into the working day. This not only helps new employees quickly get up to speed with the ways things are done, but also allows leaders within teams to spot development bottlenecks. However you choose to organize, get the structure and rituals in place so everyone feels comfortable about where and how they fit and best interact with the rest of the company.
2. Tie development requirements to business needs.
All too often, the work of developers can descend into a series of tasks assigned within a narrow context against an often-unreasonable timeframe. Our experience has been in the camp of "less haste, more speed." This works because each team, or "squad", is assigned a measurable business goal that directly contributes to the growth of the company. It becomes a matter of personal pride that the work of the squad moves the metric. We often find that squad members do tasks that no one would ever want to do just for the fulfillment of achieving the goal
3. Set the team up for success by removing the waste.
A key job when managing a development team is removing anything that could get in the way of development. This includes overly bureaucratic paperwork, too many meetings, unnecessary admin work, etc. But more than anything, aggressively managing the culture of the team is the most important thing you can do internally for your company's success. To get the culture right, leaders should cut the BS and snuff out the politics.
4. Responsibility, recognition and above all, two-way trust.
True motivation comes from within. Once a goal is in place (aligned with what the business needs, of course), emphasize the tangible and intangible rewards of accomplishing that goal. Couple this with free-flowing communication and the guys in the trenches start to surprise you with great ideas and innovative new approaches. Feedback needs to be clear and firm, both good and bad. Always praise publicly and criticize privately. This all leads to the mutual trust that is the lifeblood of a happy organization.
5. Be tough in recruiting and get creative to find the talent.
Finding the right members for your Dev team is difficult, particularly in Silicon Valley. Initial hires are friends and friends of friends, but before long, that well is dry and you have to start plumbing the depths of the general employment pool. Get creative when it comes to hiring and think about creating a program – such as Silicon Valley Internship Programme – or partnering with an organization to learn about entrepreneurship. In our experience, we found this works great for finding the best graduates. Obviously, not everyone has the resources to create such a program, but there are always market inefficiencies and as entrepreneurs, there's always a way to get the right talent in the door.
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