Why focusing on new hire development is key to retention

Building out a current or new tech team is a continuous process in any software shop. It’s too easy to focus on your looming open positions and place all of your energy into making the hires – only to neglect them once they’re in the door. Neglecting new hires is a great way to create a revolving door environment – either the new hire can’t keep up because they weren’t given the right training, or they succeed but find themselves not meeting their own personal career objectives and leave for another opportunity. With retention becoming more and more difficult in the tech space, it is no longer ideal to rely solely on filling open tech positions with what you consider to be the “perfect” hire. With the right on boarding and continuous mentorship program, even an initially less than perfect hire might be a solid long-term addition to your team.

Focus away from making the “perfect” hire

There is no such thing as a perfect hire. Someone that is good at interviewing may not necessarily be good at their job – they are simply good at interviewing. Instead of putting all your time and focus on finding and hiring what you consider to be the perfect hire, transition some of that energy into developing the “perfect” employee. What does this mean?

More and more, I see companies looking for what the recruiting industry calls a “purple squirrel”. Someone with a variety of skills that you typically don’t see in one candidate or a candidate with a skillset that is in high-demand and low-supply. Sure, you might find that perfect UI/UX DevOps candidate with just the right certifications, but chances are they will be better at one thing versus the other or live in another country.

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You might just be looking for a front-end developer with professional experience using the latest version of AngularJS.  Finding someone that with the exact skills that they are currently using to just move to your environment and do more of the same, may not provide much of a learning opportunity.

The most qualified tech professionals are consummate learners and although they may have experience with a previous version of a development tool, they can pick up the next version easily.  The best developers that are solid object-oriented developers with the right knowledge and experience, can easily pick up different languages since it’s just a matter of learning new syntax. They are always learning new languages, versions and tools.

Most are motivated by the opportunity to continue building skills and working on new interesting projects. Although hiring the perfect front-end developer complete with the latest AngularJS might be your target, it might be better – and easier – to hire a solid front-end developer with years of JavaScript experience that just hasn’t had the opportunity to work in a professional setting with AngularJS. Along with having a much bigger pool of candidates to choose from, you’ll also likely be able to hire without paying a premium for easily trainable skills.

Of course, the first thought is there’s no time to ramp up skills – we need someone that can jump right in! Yet requirements remain open for months at a time waiting for the perfect hire to come along – time that could have easily been used to fully ramp up a new great hire. And the fact of the matter is there’s no way for any engineer to jump right into an environment – no matter how perfect they might seem on paper since they still have to learn your business and unique tech environment.

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Focus instead on developing mentoring new hires

Developing a perfect employee requires a leader interested and actively involved with their new hire. The “mentor” relationship is something that both new and seasoned tech professionals look for. We’re dealing with a current climate of many job seekers receiving multiple offers and one of the primary deciding factors – sometimes even over compensation – is the mentorship/leadership factor.

Candidates are not just interviewing a company, they are interviewing their future boss. Since many employees leave a company due to quality of management, this potential relationship can make or break a deal. Want to impress potential hires? Use the professional accolades of your technology leadership team to your hiring advantage. Consider things such as profiles/bios on the company website, avenues for your technology leadership team to contribute thought-leadership advice/comments or community engagement such as speaking engagements. Even something as simple as a well thought out LinkedIn profile with technical accomplishments and companies worked for can catch a candidate’s attention. Just like your team will be researching a candidate, assume they will be researching your hiring team and anything they can find will influence their decision to some degree.

Once you make the hire, it is essential that you follow through with mentoring and developing the new hires. Don’t just seat them in a position without any opportunity to grow or develop new skills – have open conversations and allow them to contribute their thoughts and ideas with the team. Learn what it is that excites them individually. Listen, share and collaborate. Allow them ample opportunity to learn and develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to later offer new ideas and become more valuable to the company.

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Traditional yearly reviews might not mesh with a mentorship-driven environment, so consider ditching the formal yearly reviews in favor of more frequent mentoring sessions. Offer to pay for continued learning/certifications and send your team to conferences that interest them. Sure, you might have a solid developer decide they want to move into a Scrum Master role, and although it might not be ideal to lose them from your development team, it’s better to keep their skills in one capacity or another rather than lose them to a competitor.

In summary, consider adding a focus on talent development to your overall talent hiring and retention strategy.

Why focusing on new hire development is key to retention
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Elizabeth Becker

Elizabeth is Marketing Manager at PROTECH. Comments and feedback can be directed to her at jobs@protechfl.com.