The Wolf at the Door: 3 Ideas to Recruiter-Proof Your Team
I’m not sure what your experience has been with retaining staff through the feeding frenzy that has been tech hiring for the last two years, but contrary to popular belief, recruiters aren’t in the business of plucking happy, engaged employees from their positions.
We’re just really good at finding pain points in people’s professional lives.
While some things, like commute, tech stack, or business objectives aren’t exactly in your control, or logistically feasible, you’d be surprised at what purpose and meaning people can derive from even the most mundane of tasks, as long as the message is clear.
Like the fable of the 3 men in the quarry, your actions as leader can influence whether your people view their work as breaking rocks, feeding their families, or building cathedrals.
It’s long been accepted that no matter what industry you’re in, your employee engagement comes down to three things; purpose, autonomy, and mastery.
Here are 3 corresponding ideas that you can use to immediately improve your team’s stickiness (and make sure they ignore my calls);
Purpose: Product Team Alignment
There is a fundamental tension that exists between Product and Engineering. Assuming that hasn’t devolved into an outright hostile environment, there is a huge opportunity for your Product team to “sell” Engineering on user stories. Your engineers are going to buy into the (sometimes ridiculous) demands of Product if they’re drawn a roadmap as to the Big Picture Question: WHY ARE WE HERE?
To get Product on board with the extra salesmanship required, YOU, Mr. Ms. Mx. Engineering Leader, need to “sell” Product on the extra effort.
You see, Product needs to make your user avatars relatable. Engineers need to know these users intimately and feel connected to them. There are bonds and community built around these “people” and it becomes a vision for your team’s work output every day. Entire vernaculars are built around this deep understanding of what you’re doing, for whom, and why. And having your teams view each other not as upstream/downstream processes but collaborators in an end result, well that’s a goal people can buy into.
Your raison d’être commands loyalty to the brand.
Mastery: Meaningful Metrics
Pearson’s Law loosely states; that which is measured is improved, that which is measured and reported is improved exponentially. People want to know what they’re aiming for. It can’t just be your typical agile burndown charts if you want your devs to think big picture. Metrics are a great lead-in to mastery. Consider adding qualitative metrics like code stability, complexity, churn, security, reusability, etc. And then work on those pathways as development objectives for your staff, but in quantifiable terms.
The caution here is that leveraging metrics insights has an evil twin counterpart whereby overmanaging causes poor decision making for the sake of preserving the numbers (i.e. knowingly committing bug-ridden code for the sake of hitting a target). Managing by metrics takes finesse and an innate drive to seek context at the micro and macro level; but if used correctly, they’re one of the most invaluable, data-driven mechanisms for mastery building at your disposal.
Your ability to grow your staff commands loyalty to the leader.
Autonomy: Aristotle (was really wanting for an A here)
“It’s better to be governed by good men than good laws”.
Really, and I mean REALLY, think about workplace policies that stifle creativity. The most obvious in this post-pandemic world is the return to office mandates. Though I think a good many employers have happily settled into some form of hybrid work, I’ll leave it there to say that clearly outlining specific accountabilities along with attendance deliverables is essential. The lesser-seen and equally spirit-crushing policies include layers of bureaucracy in the form of approvals and access.
…perhaps there were more A’s than I thought.
Review your end to end processes to see what the employee experience looks like. Does someone come up with a good idea and it takes a committee, budget meeting, and paperwork to implement even minor changes? How much autonomy does your team have to decide what tools to use, or coding standards will be used? Do you uphold dated standards or methodologies simply because the act of changing them seems like too great an endeavor? These things cause frustrations and it’s important to have an avenue for your team to air these sometimes minor grievances out in the open.
Your ability to enable creative freedom commands loyalty to the work.
There you have it. 3 ways that you can help your technical team connect with what they do. What are some other ways that you have found to drive employee engagement in your environment?