3 Must-Have Essentials in the War for Top Talent

Are you struggling in the war for tech talent?

According to the Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO survey 2019, technology skills shortages are at an all-time high with 67% of companies struggling to attract and find the right talent. Great talent is scarce, even more so when competing with companies such as Apple of Apple, Facebook and Google or any other top-tier tech company in your neighbourhood.

A McKinsey Global Institute study suggests that employers in Europe and North America will require 16 million to 18 million more college-educated workers in 2020 than are going to be available. Companies may not be able to fill one in ten roles they need, much less fill them with top talent.

It is much more cost-effective to retain employees due to the high cost of knowledge lost, money and time (HR, Management and Sourcing team time) spent to replace them. Thankfully, my experience with OpsTalent allowed me to gain insight into the key areas you should focus on to attract and retain talent, these being Culture, People and Wellbeing.

1. Culture

Company culture is the “soul” of your organisation, the glue which binds the people together. It encompasses and intertwines the very fabric of your organisation; the values on which it was founded upon and to which you adhere to.

Culture affects the way you communicate with co-workers and clients alike, how tasks get done, and how you conduct your business endeavours. It’s what defines your entire company and is its most precious asset. It’s almost intangible at first but once it sets in the effects it has on your enterprise will be vivid. Visitors to your office should feel the culture and energy as they interact with the people in your organisation.

Culture should be your company’s competitive advantage. Hence why culture should be unique to your company. Do not try to be Google or Salesforce, you must create your own unique culture. Without a positive company culture, many employees will struggle to find the real value in their work, and this leads to a variety of negative consequences for your bottom line.

Therefore, it’s essential to align your recruitment as well as retention processes with this mindset and cultivate them; engage current employees and hire those who will enhance the new culture.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding floating around about what cultural fit means. Most importantly, hiring for cultural fit is not about hiring an army of clone-like drones, all of whom will march to the same drumbeat as it only leads to stagnation. Rather, hiring for cultural fit is about bringing in people, whose ideas and outlook not only align with your culture but also possesses qualities, which supplement it, thus enhancing it further.

Ask yourself, do you have a strong culture? Are you living your company values every day from top management down? Do your employee’s feel there is a positive culture? Do you continue to build and enhance your culture?

You need to act if you are answering no to any of those questions. There are lots of great sources on the internet to help address this but here are some examples we use at OpsTalent to create a positive culture:

  • Community – supporting local charities such as “Make a Wish” and host events and meet-ups to support the tech community.
  • Employee wellness – healthy employee means happy positive employees. Examples include gym membership, healthcare, healthy free food every day & yoga classes.
  • Engagement – encourage honest feedback and address it. Take people’s ideas and try them out.
  • Quality time – encourage social interaction via fun events such as excursions and parties. This gives people at all level’s quality time together.
  • Recognition – could be via email or public award ceremonies, which set the example for others to strive for.

2. People

“I’ve always believed that by taking care of people in my companies, the rest will take care of itself,” explains Richard Branson. The Virgin group is a great example of how to look after your people. You need to become a people-focused employer. When you look after your employees, they’ll care for one another, your customers and the community. Go beyond great perks. Create a workplace that thrives on trust and respect for all individuals and protect that culture every day.

Your people will talk, and word will get out. They’ll refer like-minded, talented people who believe in your culture and your mission. When hiring, focus on people, not qualifications; Even the most qualified person for the job, if they’re not a cultural fit, can lead to a bad hire and destroy your company culture.

Finding great developers, project managers and other technical roles is a big challenge and keeping these top performers is even more difficult.

People want to work in an environment where they have a voice, not a company which treats motivated, result-driven people the same as the people who do the bare minimum. You must value people’s hard work and opinions and make them feel they are driving their direction and not just following orders. Great people are in hot demand and can easily leave if they are not happy.

Some examples in my experience to value people:

  • Calibrate & Involve – great people want to contribute and be part of something special. When we built our new office, we crowdsourced the design with the employees in the company. The excitement was amazing when people saw their idea’s come to life 😊. They felt so appreciated and valued.
  • Communication – keep people up to date on company news, mission, results, strategy and vision. Great people value been kept informed and up to date on company news.
  • Opportunity – give people opportunities to develop. This could be additional training or promotion to a new role. We have had outstanding people develop from customer service and tech support into HR and IT roles.
  • Positive mindset – turn failure into a positive by fostering a culture of ‘Don’t be afraid to fail’. When people are confident to try new ideas and know they won’t be punished, you will be amazed by how your company can transform in terms of customer offering & innovation.
  • Respect – treat people well, listen to their feedback and take action.
  • Trust – Lead and do not micromanage. Give people direction but give them the autonomy to make their own decisions.

3. Wellbeing

Focusing on wellbeing of your employees is a wonderful way to make people feel valued. It builds goodwill inside and outside your organisation. Employers play a huge part in their employees’ overall health and wellbeing; and ultimately, they’ll feel the impact if something is wrong or goes wrong.

If you want to focus their energy on contributing to the companies’ culture, reputation and bottom line, then physical, financial and emotional health must be addressed:

  • Financial – employees must feel good about their financial situation and have the control to make it better. Hence there must be a clear career path to develop into bigger and better roles.
  • Flexibility – You could allow your people to run minor, personal errands during work hours, work from home or have an easy and casual dress code. Move away from the traditional office environment; let people move and work around the office.
  • Education – Linkedin says 23% of people leave their jobs due to lack of development and training opportunities. Tailoring learning initiatives to career exploration and growth can make employees feel personally valued, increasing their loyalty if other firms come calling.
  • Location – central location of the office, needs to be easy to access, close to facilities and parks etc.
  • Health and wellness amenities – open space and comfy places to unwind, healthy food & health insurance perks.
  • Time management – there are moments when you must work overtime but do not make it a standard. Your people can suffer from burnout. Trust your people to manage this themselves and they will go above and beyond.

According to McKenzie’s book “Leading Organizations”, superior talent is up to 8 times more productive than average workers. Act today on culture, people and wellness so you can attract and retain incredible talent

To further boost company morale why not apply for awards, which recognise excellence in culture, people and wellbeing. Finally, get the word out there, get your people moving on social media. Let them be themselves and build content around this. Host events, publish articles and let everyone know what an exceptional place your company is to work in.


The Blue-Print to Success with Agile

If you ever dabbled in sports, then you probably are accustomed to the following phrase, or at least some version of it:

“It’s all about fundamentals!”

The same rule applies when attempting to embrace Agile software development; success is achieved by constant and efficient re-application of core methodology fundamentals, thus never losing track of principles which lie at the core.

The Agile Manifesto is compromised of 12 principles which along with its four core values form the foundation of Agile software development as we know it today.

Agile can work for a team of any size, and if you’re struggling after making the switch to Agile from waterfall-based methodologies, then it just means that you need to go back to the basics  – work on those fundamentals!

We went over each of the 12 principles and what they mean to our software development division:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

Software is not developed for the sake of it being developed. We develop it so that it can aid and assist end-users; to perform tasks which would be otherwise impossible, to solve problems, to enhance the end user’s abilities or allow for tasks to be completed in a more efficient manner. Unfortunately, the pivotal aspect as to why we develop software is often lost amongst the dev-cycle noise, almost forgotten.

How can you re-align your software team with this principle?

Plan for less change (at a time), thus shortening requirement and feedback gathering processes. Which will enable you to take full control of the software development process, and steer it in the right direction  – one suitable for the client.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Changes can be applied at any time, at the start of the process or quite late into the development process and even NOW – don’t be afraid to make changes, especially, if the change implements an essential feature-set.

Don’t wait for the next system iteration or build update.

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Waterfall development methods are plagued by several issues and often times products will ship with an overabundance of documentation; under the guise of completing 100% of the requirements required. Unfortunately, once the development cycle has ended and the software has already shipped, all you had was a lot of documentation with little else to show for it – apart from owning the software in question.

Agile project management excels at shortening the process, mainly its planning and delivery phases by focusing on developing software instead of just planning for it or around its feature-set.

Thus allowing your software development team, and clients by proxy, to improve effectiveness and efficiency with virtually no downside.

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Despite being obvious and essential to developing successful software, this principle doesn’t receive the recognition it should. Agile methodology’s pivotal point is centred around improving co-operation between business people and software developer;  co-location is the best approach as it helps both sides to better understand one another (as well as which challenges each party faces), thus leading to more productive work.

Remote workers can use communication tools to get around limitations and essentially “be there” with the core team, thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Micromanagement has no place in Agile based project management as a team needs to be self-reliant and self-directed by design. Ensure that your software development team will be able to deliver on schedule whilst also having completed all project objectives.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Co-location and remote work are the cornerstones of Agile project management.

However, instant communication is essential to your success, as it shortens the time between a question and its answer.

Teams need to be a part of the same environment, as it makes communication easier; most notably making suggestions, asking questions and looking for guidance.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

The only metric an Agile software development team should be judged by is pretty simple – is it working as intended?

If a particular piece of software doesn’t work as intended, then it doesn’t matter how many lines of code it contains, nor how many bugs QA has found and fixed and let’s not to mention how many work-hours have been clocked – for the sake of all parties involved.

Software needs to work, plain and simple, everything else is quite frankly irrelevant. To spot a quality software development team just apply this simple rule – are they capable of continually delivering working software?

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Unfortunately, burn out is a common problem among software development teams, mostly due to industry specifics but crunch time also plays a part in this rather unwanted phenomenon.

Prevent this (or limit its impact) by limiting excessive overtime, it can’t continue infinitely without having a negative effect on quality – focus your efforts on bursts of productivity instead.

Adjust the pace your Agile team operates at by maintaining a balance between tiredness and satisfaction.

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Code needs to be better with each iteration, therefore, cleaning up redundant or confusing code is a software developer’s most important responsibility.

Teams should focus on reviewing code whilst working on a project, rather than cleaning it up at a later time. It’s more efficient, plus “later” in this regards is also synonymous with “never”.

Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.

The KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) design principle, which has been first introduced by the US NAVY, can also be applied here. It shortens the time between comprehension and completion.

Avoid focusing on tasks which do not add value to your processes and are unsubstantial in the long run; “busy work” corporate culture adds no value and will only complicate things as far as goal completion is concerned.

Keep track of your software development team (and their work hours) by using project management tools like Jira and VSO.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Agile software development teams are your tech equivalents of specialized task-force units; self-sufficient and require next to no hand-holding. Challenges are dealt with by applying proper tools and coming up with ingenious tactics even against overwhelming odds.

However, a clear sign that the team doesn’t operate at full capacity is when a project manager is required to step in and micromanage – it’s huge red flag and teams cohesion should be reviewed, scrutinized and resolved.

A successful Agile team uses their own ambition as a driver for success.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Agile project management’s biggest selling point is the aptitude to self-reflect, review and adapts as necessary.

A well documented and tested solution, one which has been used for a long time doesn’t necessarily have to be the best one to use now or in the future – code becomes redundant and so do features and tools.

Back to the basics

Agile software development methodology provides enterprises with solutions to project management woes, however, it does come with its own fair share of perils; even an experienced project manager will get lost in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment.

Which is why it’s essential to keep Agile fundamentals in sight, as these core principles shape the entire methodology and can be used a safety-net in dire times.

If your efforts fail, simply go back to the basics and work on those fundamentals.