Last week I was discussing a global client’s plans for the year ahead.
Of particular interest was our Next Level Initiative. A common question then came up: “I love the concept, but how do we ensure the software engineers stay with us when you guys step back?”
My simple answer was: “over the 18 months they are with you, provide an environment which makes them want to stay”.
Richard Branson summarised more elegantly:
Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.
- Richard Branson
On reflection this comment was too pithy and deserves a more qualified answer, which I will endeavour to provide now:
Let’s face the question head on. What if a client spends all this money with us and at the end of it everyone leaves?
The qualified answer lies in how they evaluate the expenditure against the tangible outputs - and view everything else as upside.
Let’s face it, the initial route into our clients (especially corporates) is usually through some form of mission critical project delivery, which requires skilled software engineers.
We are recruiting the next generation of developers from our academy, and institutional, partners and baking them directly into our cross-disciplined client delivery teams. They will work 1:1 with our senior engineers as part of a blended team that can also integrate with a clients existing developers. It is incumbent upon us to fashion a team that delivers against the project brief - with a blended rate that is highly competitive in relation to the standard of development required.
Therefore, if we take a view that ROI has already been met through successful project delivery - then I would argue everything above and beyond this is regarded as upside.
The best talent recruitment opportunity you could ever wish for
Hiring talent across any discipline is hard, so imagine you had the opportunity to offer a role to a highly talented individual who had already been associated with your organisation for 12 or 18 months; over which time they had:
- Been actively mentored every day by skilled software engineers, and recognise that you were an advocate of their professional development.
- Developed a deep understanding of the technical platforms powering your organisation, and the roadmap ahead.
- Experienced your organisation first hand, and formed strong bonds with colleagues and managers.
Now, how much is that opportunity worth? Yes they might not stay, but if this is all upside, then how fantastic is it if they do!
Embedding a professional development culture
There is universal agreement that to retain talented developers you need an environment that embraces professional development, and also provides ‘interesting work’.
This lies at the heart of our business, and is the reason talented people work with us. In addition to delivery of client software we provide:
- Tailored workshops and supported learning.
- Encouragement and support to pursue personal projects.
Again, if we view this through the lens of client upside.
At a local level, how valuable is it to have access to a team that is actively supported towards developing new skills, and keeping abreast of latest developments - that could lead to better, faster deployments, or new ways of working.
Our philosophy is often infectious and we can additionally apply our training framework across the clients wider software development team to imbue skills and knowledge that have a direct impact on performance and professional development.
I hope this conveys a more qualified answer to the original question and resonates with many who are under pressure to deliver complex software programmes, but also appreciate the value of a sustainable, productive, and professionally progressive development team.