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Post by Rich Moy on Jan 22, 2018, 12:00:00 PM

Even for seasoned HR leaders, employee retention can be one of the most frustrating things about tech hiring. Whenever you hire quality developers, the pressure is always on to keep them happy. After all, your competition is also looking for ways to engage with passive tech candidates—and your programmers are no exception.

At the same time, it’s an incredibly nuanced statistic that represents much more than the answer to, “How many developers did we lose this year?” But how can you define an effective employee retention strategy for developers today? Here are a few things to consider.

Evaluate Retention as a Component of Employee Engagement

When it comes to evaluating your employee retention strategy, many managers start by identifying their company’s turnover rate. Commonly, you’d calculate this by dividing the number of employees who left during a given period by the total number of employees at the end of that time. If your turnover rate in any given quarter is lower than the rest, you’d probably consider that a win. But when you focus too much on this number, you run the risk of missing the bigger picture.

Amy Hirsch Robinson at the Human Capital Institute says that employee engagement is a much more valuable metric than employee retention or turnover. She adds, “Organizations that zoom in on retention as a primary metric often get stuck with people who show mediocre performance and have minimal ambition. Employees who want challenging, engaging jobs leave quickly when they see average performance being rewarded.”

Let’s go back to your turnover rate, whatever it may be. Do you know why your developers are either staying or leaving at this frequency? To find out, ask at least three of your current developers how they feel about their jobs. If they’re content with doing what’s required, take that as a sign that the team isn’t as engaged as you thought.

Create Additional Opportunities for Growth and Advancement

Speaking of opportunities for growth and advancement, developers are outspoken about how important they are to them at work. In fact, they were near the top of their list of job evaluation criteria in 2017. As important as professional development is to developers who are evaluating new jobs, they’re an even more critical component of an effective employee retention strategy.

Write down the current initiatives that you have in place to help your programmers grow their skills. If you can’t identify at least three, meet with your engineering managers to discuss. If the tech team has recently been focused on a few critical projects, create a plan to give your developers additional professional development opportunities after they complete these urgent tasks. More importantly, communicate your ideas to the team as soon as you’ve finalized them. If you’ve worked hard to help them advance their careers, they’ll want to know about it—and your efforts will likely have a positive effect on your overall retention numbers.

Increase Your Focus on Hiring the Right People

On the flipside, your retention data might be misleading if you’re backfilling developer roles quickly. If you’re constantly replacing members of your tech team, that’s obviously something that you need to address. But the bigger issue might be your hiring strategy, and not your employee retention strategy.

Again, look beyond the rate at which you’re losing and hiring developers. Start by analyzing your hiring patterns over the last six months, and ask yourself why you’ve had to backfill so many roles. Have your previous developers moved on to other job opportunities, or was it the result of a few bad hires? If it’s the latter, meet with your engineering managers to identify the parts of your hiring process that might be broken.

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