8 mins

In a recent LeadDev survey, we heard that employee retention is one of the biggest concerns for senior engineering managers.

No matter the size of your engineering org, you can’t accomplish much without a skilled, cohesive team. Even a slight misalignment in your team's structure can significantly affect your output.

So how can you attract and retain the best engineers in the market when the competition for talent is so fierce?

Here are the seven things you need to know about retaining engineering talent in your teams:

  1. Toxic cultures are losing talent

    According to the MIT Sloan Review, toxic culture has been the single biggest driver of attrition during The Great Resignation. In fact, people are ten times more likely to leave their jobs because of toxic culture than they are because of pay.

    David Carboni discusses the link between culture and success in his article, ‘The three pillars of a positive engineering culture’. Carboni warns us that ‘Toxic cultures destroy individual engagement, break down team systems, and shut down the specific intellectual and creative capacities required to succeed in knowledge work.’ To avoid employee disengagement, leaders must take steps to create inclusive team cultures.
  2. People leave managers, not jobs

    A recent Gallup poll showed that the majority of people quit their jobs because of a bad manager. They also estimated that just 30% of the American workforce have a great boss. Most managers don’t want to be bad at their jobs, but they might not know what great management looks like or have access to essential training and development.

    Of course, being a great manager is even more challenging during uncertain times. Whether you’re navigating a pandemic or facing a potential recession, established organizational structures and processes can suddenly change or become unavailable, making it harder to lead effectively. Organizations must invest in management training to help folks solve problems quickly, provide the support their teams need, and manage the constant demands of the role.
  3. Remote work means more people are feeling disconnected

    Remote work is a great draw for many engineering employees, but that doesn’t mean it comes without consequences. The move to hybrid or remote-first working has limited face time between colleagues, making team bonding more challenging. The days of taking an impromptu long lunch with the team, or spending Friday evenings at the pub seem to be over. Many employers are struggling to replace this remotely, resulting in a large number of disconnected teams. To keep teams feeling engaged and connected, it’s more important than ever to invest in regular, dedicated time together, either in person or online.
  4. Losing talent costs money

    When a member of your team leaves, it costs your organization to hire, train, and onboard new talent, not to mention the non-financial costs of losing critical knowledge and team relationships. The departure of fantastic people can also negatively impact team morale and burden the remaining employees with extra workload. According to the BBC, there’s often a ripple effect that causes other employees to question if they too should jump ship. Smart organizations are investing in recruitment strategies in order to save them resources in the long run.
  5. Happy teams don't leave

    A recent US survey showed the most popular reason for remaining in a job is ‘doing things at work each day that are enjoyable’. Of course, there will always be aspects of a job that are less fun, but for most people, it’s enjoyable to do things they’re good at.

    Organizations can help employees find happiness by providing career opportunities that are aligned with their personal strengths and interests. For example, if an engineer enjoys working with others and communicating strategy, you can support them in becoming an engineering manager. If they enjoy solving technical problems and working individually, help them to grow as an individual contributor.
  6. Learning and development is a competitive factor for retention

    Did you know that employees who feel like they’re missing out on learning and development opportunities are more likely to leave? The people on your teams are intelligent and driven. They want to grow as individuals. That's why you hired them. Implementing an employee development plan is a fantastic way to ensure your employees are happy, fulfilled, and recognized for their potential.

    Investing in training can also significantly affect the rest of the business, making your workforce more effective, improving company morale, and increasing business success – all important factors for retention.
  7. Group learning is an effective way to boost engagement

    Group training is a great way to keep your teams engaged. According to the learning experts at MasterClass, collaborative learning allows groups to see problems from different perspectives and combine ideas to develop the best solutions to large-scale problems. Also, managers who receive the same training can speak the same language, providing consistent management throughout the organization.

    At LeadDev, we run a series of group courses on engineering management called LeadDev Together, and we’ve seen the impact on team engagement. One attendee organization reported a 91% increase in knowledge and 78% increase in confidence in their team. A group of managers from Atomic Object also commented on the power of team training to boost engagement: ‘After a year of remote work, the consensus among most of my coworkers is that “virtual” and “engaging” are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence. So, I was pleasantly surprised that this was such an engaging virtual experience.’

    A group training course like LeadDev Together is a great way to level up your team’s management skills and protect yourself from attrition. By coming together in a group discussion led by a trusted industry expert, your team can connect with each other while learning and growing as individuals.

    Group learning can also take the form of shared in-person experiences. Conferences and events provide rich opportunities to connect with your team and network with industry leaders in person. At LeadDev, we're pleased to bring our community together in both San Francisco and Berlin this fall and New York and London next year (watch this space!). Keep up to date with new events and course announcements by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for retaining talent, but there are several practical things you can do today to encourage employees to stay: focus on building an inclusive culture, support your people to grow into careers they’ll enjoy, prioritize learning and development, and invest in group training that has the added benefit of bringing people together. Good luck!

You can find more information about our LeadDev Together courses here.

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