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Face the Facts: You’re Losing the Talent Battle

July 8, 2015

Forbes wrote a piece on June 1st about the hardest jobs to fill and shared this (not-so-surprising) statistic:


“42% of employers surveyed this year reported that talent shortages resulted in a reduced ability to serve clients, while an identical percentage reported reduced competition and productivity.”


Forbes went on to identify the Top 10 Hardest Jobs to fill in 2015, and, also not surprising– engineer was number three. This is nothing new to us in IT, we know finding and retaining new talent is a battle. But we have to face an uncomfortable truth– it’s a battle most of us are losing!


Here’s What Isn’t Working


Pay, perks, and foosball tables can only do so much to retain and attract talent. Sure, Google gets a lot of great PR based on their perks and benefits, but you’re not Google. And you shouldn’t try to be. Once the shine of a solid salary wears off and the foosball table has been exhausted, your engineers are back at their desks looking for a new job.

There is nothing as frustrating as hiring, training, and getting a new engineer up to speed only to have them leave within a short timeframe. What are we doing wrong? We can’t offer Google-like perks or offer much more in terms of salary. What can do to attract and retain talent?

Understand What Drives Your Engineers


Your engineer became an engineer to build, create, innovate, and tinker. Do an inventory of what your staff is working on day-to-day. What’s the mix of building and innovating compared to monitoring, doing break/fixes, and maintaining? How many interruptions is your team getting in a given day? How many alerts does your team answer at night? On weekends? On vacation?


You might be thinking, “But that’s their job!” Our question to you: “Is it really?”

It’s not the perks that made your engineers want to become engineers. Your job, and the way to win the talent battle, is by creating a culture that supports innovation and building.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say


Telling your engineers you want to create an environment of innovation is one thing; committing to it is another. We can’t tell our engineers, “We want you building and innovating,” while not changing the day-to-day work our team does.


Expecting your engineers to continue answering alerts at night, on vacation, or in the middle of a crucial project tells your engineer, “I say I support innovation, but I don’t mean it.” And with that? Your engineer is going to look for another place to go. You’re back to scrambling for new resources while putting more burden on those who stayed.


There will always be those engineers who job hop for a better salary, better perks, and a cooler foosball table– however, most engineers simply want to find a culture that supports innovation. Most engineers want to find an organization that lets them be engineers. If you’re having a hard time attracting and retaining engineers, look at your culture. Are you saying you support innovation, but expecting the engineers to handle support tickets all day (and night) with your service provider? If so, you’re going to continue to lose the talent battle.




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