How to recruit and retain tech talent for years: 12 proven strategies
What struck me at RST Software when I joined was the fact that a large portion of the company’s employees have been with them for over 10 years and that a vast majority of developers are of senior experience levels – as much as 73%! This isn’t very common in the IT industry today. In the US alone, over 19 million people have quit their jobs since April 2021 and that number only continues to grow.
I spoke to Katarzyna Pachocka, VP in charge of Operations at RST Software to understand what’s the secret behind such a good retention rate. You’ll find a list of 12 helpful strategies our company uses to hire and retain tech talent. Spoiler alert: it actually isn’t about the benefits.
How to keep tech talent at a company for years?
We are convinced that our organizational culture is what attracts tech talent most.
Here is what we do at RST to create an engaging and stimulating, but also friendly and supportive work environment.
Genuinely care about employees’ needs
From our experience, this is the most important thing. However, saying that you care and actually doing so are two different things. We built a company culture that values the employee by conducting an annual Employee Satisfaction survey. With this tool, we ask our employees why they stay with us, what makes work easy for them or what obstacles they face.
It isn’t about asking questions, however, but extracting insights and acting on them. The survey helps us to set meaningful management priorities for the coming year. If the results of the survey indicate that employees stay with us because of the good atmosphere, we’ll ensure we organize internal events when people can socialize or cocreate. If they mention they need more development opportunities, we make sure to provide them.
Ensure ample growth opportunities
I’m sure that most organizations have growth opportunities on their priorities list, but the question is how to deliver on that promise? Year on year our surveys indicate that professional development is important to our employees as well, so we ensure a wide range of options.
Developers can be sure that if there are growth opportunities within their project, they can seize them. At the same time, if there aren’t any opportunities within the project, they are free to look for them outside it and support other teams. This is solidly ingrained in one of our four values: “cooperation.” In addition, depending on the client needs, employees may be assigned to work externally as part of our staff augmentation services.
In addition, we also have an annual budget allocated to every employee for their professional development, and they are free to spend that budget however they want – on practical courses, workshops, conferences or simply handbooks.
RST prioritizes transparency in every aspect of communication. It’s ingrained in our company values. Whether we give feedback to new applicants, conduct performance reviews or have a monthly meeting to update on project developments – we always speak the truth, even if it isn’t always easy to say.
“If we notice that employees want something we cannot ensure at a given time, we communicate it to them transparently. We would say that we acknowledge what they say and what they need, but that we aren’t able to provide it and what are the reasons for that” – explained Kasia. “Our employees value transparency highly and we’ve noticed it helps to build healthy, open relationships in the workplace.”
Nurture employees’ interests
“At RST, we’re dedicated to creating a space that allows people to do what they feel like doing in terms of their professional development. For example, if our employees feel they want to exchange knowledge and set up relevant communities for that, we not only allow them to do so but give them everything that’s necessary to make it happen: time, space and money. That’s how our CodeMeetings initiative started and thrives till this day.”
From our perspective, it’s important to support employees as they co-create or initiate something rather than imposing activities or initiatives on them. Employee interests or needs will change as they grow with the organization – some of them will start a family when working with us and so naturally their needs will change as they grow. We constantly communicate to our employees that, if they have any needs or problems, they should voice them directly to the management.
Allow employees to experiment
When it comes to nurturing employees’ interests, it’s good to allow people to experiment with their professional challenges. Sooner or later, an employee will be willing to acquire new skills and try a new role. A scrum master would often consider becoming an architect as a next step in their career.
Kasia explained that “in such cases, we allow employees to experiment within our organization. They can try out a new role for 3 months, and if they decide it isn’t for them, then can go back to working as seniors in their previous roles. We don’t close the vacancy in case they do want to come back. I think it’s very important to allow people to experiment within the organization because if you don’t, they will look for new challenges elsewhere. It’s all about making sure people seek what they don’t yet have within the organization, rather than outside of it.”
Instill guiding principles and respect them
Having values is immensely important for any organization, but it’s particularly important that these are set collectively, not just by the management. The values must be directly connected to the vision and mission of the organization. More importantly though, these values can’t be written on paper or on a board only, but must be coupled with actions. If transparency is our value, then we teach our employees how to give meaningful feedback.
How to successfully fill tech talent gaps?
Retaining tech talent is one aspect of building strong teams, but attracting new seasoned experts is another big task that requires a thought-out approach. Here’s what we do to make sure are talent gaps are filled quickly and efficiently:
Anticipate talent gaps early on
According to Kasia, “the best case scenario is when you are able to anticipate talent gaps before they occur. This is where the role of an HR Guide comes into play. They always try to be one step ahead of internal developments”
At RST Software, every employee has an HR Guide assigned to them, who, besides answering questions and handling any HR queries, is responsible for staying in close contact with employees. That goal of interactions is to find out when an employee encounters any difficulties or issues, including their dissatisfaction from the job, what are their plans for the upcoming months. By listening to the employees needs, we are often able to resolve many issues before they make an employee file their resignation form. We also know when teams become overloaded and must be supplemented with extra talent.
Be honest and transparent during interviews
“It’s quite obvious we have to be honest and transparent during interviews, but it isn’t always easy to achieve. We had situations in the past when our HR specialists would communicate that we work in scrum in a particular project, when in reality we were phasing scrum out. A couple of employees were surprised enough to leave our organization quickly” – explained Kasia.
To ensure such situations don’t happen, we want to communicate clearly what the role will involve, but also who the person will be working with, how they will be able to develop, etc. If your promises won’t match the reality, the employee will leave. That’s why it’s also crucial to ensure a smooth communication flow with the HR department about the requirements of the role, so that they have a full understanding of the situation.
Listen to client’s needs
Signing new clients may naturally determine the talent gaps we may have in the organization. Whether it’s with regards to specific skills or experience, new projects will always bring new requirements.
What is crucial here is to listen to a client’s needs attentively and engage architects or senior developers in these conversations. They may be able to spot what the client is missing, or to second-guess some of the assumptions a client may have made at the outset of the project. It may turn out, e.g. that the development team may not require three specialists but just two, while an extra QA tester will help execute the project faster.
Be picky, but don’t rule anyone out
Select developers so that they fit the client’s needs, but also the needs of your projects and organizational culture. That’s a lot of boxes to tick, but the work will pay off.
We’ve once had a candidate who applied to us, and, regrettably, we had to reject him. He was definitely a good culture and client fit, but he was missing certain technical skills. We explained exactly what was missing. He applied to us two more times before finally receiving the offer. He acquired the skills that were required for the job he wanted, and so we took him on board. We don’t rule anyone out in our recruitment processes; that developer is still one of our senior programmers.
Build your brand wisely
When we attend recruitment conferences, we always bring tech people along with us. They actually help us recruit tech talent. We noticed that some developers who are interested in working with us are inclined to apply when they can chat with a tech person they know and whose expertise they admire.
That’s why we also periodically organize hackathons, bootcamps and CodeMeetings – our signature event – during which we share knowledge and experiences, also outside the organization, “showing off” the skills and know-how we have. “The perspective of being able to work with other skilled professionals is very attractive and important for candidates. In a sense, we recruit through personal brands of our senior developers” – explained Kasia.
Invest in HR development
Having a recruitment team that understands our industry and technologies we work with makes a big difference during interviews with candidates. That’s why we also pay attention to honing their soft skills and knowledge of our core technologies.
We conduct surveys about the recruitment process once it’s closed and many of our new hires note that it’s pleasant to talk to recruitment specialists who have knowledge about the specific technologies; who don’t switch off once the conversation moves on to tech topics and who can ask meaningful tech questions. It’s certainly attractive for senior developers and helps us to gain their trust.
Recruiting and retaining tech talent – the RST way
As you may have noticed, we take recruiting, hiring and developing tech talent very seriously. We’ve developed solid mechanisms that help us achieve our hiring goals effortlessly. Having a unique company culture, periodic employee satisfaction surveys and a solid HR team allows us to attract top tech talent and build functional teams. We have specialists in location-based services development, chat applications, media streaming solutions, data visualization, custom mapping solutions and more.
We’re also a staff augmentation company, so we can extend your team with highly skilled professionals with experience in the aforementioned domains. If you’re interested in working with any of our experts, contact me directly at email@example.com and I’be happy to help you out. You may also be interested in our tips for building successful teams with augmented staff.