The care and keeping of software engineers
By Kylee McIntyre24-Jan-2018Views 2660

Going out and meeting people is my favorite part of my job. Recently, I was having a discussion with a startup founder who pointed out that getting a software engineer to stay for longer than three months (standard probation period) is fine but what he really wanted was for someone to stay a year. Frankly, that's hard. The startup world isn't necessarily known for its stable nature or for longevity of employee tenure. And tech startups? Even less so. So, sometimes your best efforts, your talent leaves - especially the good ones.

As always, though, not all of the situation is out of your control. And there are plenty of software engineers out there who stay in place for over a year. What's the secret? If you're a hiring CEO or talent manager, how do you land good talent and get them to stick around? Luckily, our team at 100offer has decades of experience working in traditional recruitment and now on our streamlined tech hiring marketplace. Here's what we know about employees and retention firsthand - something to keep in mind the next time you're looking to hire your next set of talent.

1. Sell your culture accurately

It's natural to want to sell up your company culture - and you should, because that's one of the best way to distinguish yourself from the other tech opportunities out there. If a candidate is going to have to code for eight or nine hours a day, he or she probably wants to do it in a great environment. However, there is a right and a wrong way to sell your culture.

Obviously, don't promise things that aren't there. This can be something as small and as silly as mentioning that the entire office always hangs out after work (not every office does this, and that's fine - not everyone wants to hang out with their coworkers 24/7) or something larger, like misrepresenting the entire team's preferred work style.

software engineers

If you give someone something wrapped as a present, they're going to trust that what's on the inside isn't something undesirable. The same thing goes for selling a candidate a position, especially for software engineers. Photo credit: Pixabay

A helpful way to keep this from becoming a problem is to fill in the holes in your perspective with the experience of people who do know what it's like - the team, particularly the team with which the potential new employee will work.

As part of the later interview stages, consider asking the team to come in and have a chat with the candidate. They can ask questions and basically be themselves, and that'll help the hiree judge if that's a good place for him or her to be.

Also, keep tabs on why people are leaving. As a team grows, it may be hard to keep track of what the current atmosphere is like among a company's team. If a lot of employees mention red flags like a toxic team or confusing management on their way out the door, you know that you have a culture problem that you need to fix in order to keep more people there.

2. Keep your talent engaged

This can be a part of company culture, but remember - especially if you don't come from a tech background yourself: your software engineers are spending a full day of work doing a similar task. Make things challenging or change up the types of projects people are working on. Remember, your employees are there to grow the company but also to grow themselves - personally and professionally. Offer opportunities for advancement.

This can come in the form of a team brainstorming session or team getaway to celebrate new ideas or team accomplishments. If you deem your talent ready, you can let them head up projects or allow sprint-type tasks to keep ideas fresh and the team on their toes. You have two fronts to work with here: the personal and the technical. Be sure to keep your employees engaged on both fronts.

If you're at a loss, talk to your team. Know what keeps them engaged and keep the door open for trying and evaluating new ideas.

3. Be flexible

You don't have to let your employees work from home every day to create an environment of empathy and understanding. Just the simple act of keeping your proverbial office door open and staying open to hearing out your employees' suggestions can go a long way to keeping people happy at work. You may not be able to say yes to everything, but you can have a dialogue about your answers.

Don't forget to advertise your open door policy! Workers are not always so forthcoming to the boss. Make it clear that you're open - really open - to hearing out employee suggestions. It's nice to feel heard.

4. Communicate

Particularly in the startup world, things can change at any time. That's fine, especially if your employees have the expectations for a flexible environment. It's your job to communicate well within the company and to facilitate communication. Talking about problems as they come up instead of laying blame later can save a lot of time, resources, and grief. Meanwhile, if you and your other team members are approachable, this will work both ways.

5. Stay updated

In 2014, I worked part-time as a proofreader in an office that was still using Windows 2000, where I was expected to purchase half of the software to do my job, because the company wouldn't provide it for us.

That was frustrating. There's nothing like having to pay to do your job and to know that you'd be able to do a better job if your equipment was up to date.

software engineers

Even the best-trained athletes require other things to perform well, like nutritious food, enough sleep, and good running shoes. Treat your software engineers like a team that wants to compete: give them the best resources you can, and listen to their needs. Photo credit: Pixabay

The same goes for software engineers. This is very important, especially if you're working in tech: you've hired your talent because of their skills and their work styles, but make sure that you are doing your part as an employer to help them do their jobs to the best of their ability. Not everyone is going to be able to afford the most up-to-date equipment, so make sure you know what that equipment is and that you're able to get that for your workers, if needed.

The exchange works out well for you here too - up-to-date equipment means better output for you.

If you're really bootstrapped and can't provide all of the equipment, bring that up in the interview. Candidates who really want a startup experience might like that. It's best to bring it up now than later so you know.

6. Meet expectations

Tech hiring processes tend to have so many steps to them because the company has to become familiar with the candidates' skill sets as well as where they fit in at the company (culture). At the end of the day, if the actual job doesn't match what was sold in the interview process, candidates may leave because they're not working the job for which they interviewed.

These things should go without saying, but they're real complaints that we have received - and problems that come up in big-named companies. Things like excessive overtime, misdescribed roles, workplace harassment, and lack of transparency are deal breakers. Keep these obvious maladies out of your office to keep your talent.

Are you ready to hire your next set of star talent? Our experienced team at 100offer is available for support on our marketplace platform that curates the most talented of software engineers and other tech employees. Why don't you peruse our site to fill your open roles? We'll be on hand to help you through the hiring process as much as you need.

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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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