Inspiring and Retaining Engineering Talent
I had a great conversation the other day about what keeps Comtrade Software’s engineers focused and continuing to drive innovation for our customers. The answer to me was pretty easy. It boils down to four things.
- Create an environment that nurtures and sustains the interest of our talented technical people
- Work to hold on to your best talent.
- Sustain the environment you create.
- Look beyond money for motivation.
Let me explain what I mean by each:
First, create an environment that nurtures and sustains.
The major issue for any business leader is to allow people to think for themselves. For many companies, in particular those that are well established, they tend to be run by process whereas early-stage and emerging companies are known for thriving on innovation and free thinking. The goal, regardless of the organization, should be to remove barriers, get people to think out of the box, enable them to make decisions and help them to fail within their own domain, without too many processes to buoy them up. If you create an environment where people don't fail, or aren't comfortable failing, you end up removing the innovation you need most and leave your technical talent doing uninspired work.
Second, work to hold on to your best talent.
Holding on to your best talent is a combination. It's part developing the right culture and part inspiring engineers and developers to think for themselves. It's also about allowing them to make their own decisions and giving them the support and access to the resources they need to be successful. You need to inspire engineers to succeed. Like other disciplines and professions, i.e. doctors, lawyers, etc. engineers also need training and an environment that accepts and invests in them. An environment that gives them access to the latest tools, solutions and engineering resources. It's also about providing a great infrastructure. That support shouldn't be overlooked as a great engineering or technical mind does not want to be held back by trying to do things with outdated or inefficient resources.
Third, sustain the environment you create.
You have to have an environment that engineers themselves believe in the business as well as the products and services they are developing. If you have developers creating rote code or doing rote activities, they will burn out and leave. It's a guarantee. If you want engaged engineers or developers, you want them to be problem solvers. You need to involve them in the business and make sure they know and understand the level of importance they have in the business. If it's about churning out code, it's unhealthy for them and doesn't accomplish the business goals you've set up.
Fourth and final, look beyond money for motivation.
It goes back to my earlier point, it's absolutely not about the money. You need engineers and developers believing in the impact and contribution they are making on a daily/weekly basis. It's not just about the near-term project they may be working on but it needs to tie to a higher goal. They need to know they're making a difference in a broader way. Beyond that, the ability to solve their own problems without being hamstrung by operational procedure. It helps to have an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with top shelf training and an environment that fosters and cares about them as individuals.
I’ve found over the years that if you focus in these four key areas, then you will have built a foundation for success.