engineer retention – erran berger – qcon

This is part of my live blogging from QCon 2015. See my QCon table of contents for other posts.

make talent #1 priority

Why should you care about retention- leaves gap in knowledge, morale and resources to do work, your competitors are making progress while you try to re-hire and re-train.

Everyone is trying to be recruited on linked in. Startups/new company IPO threat in San Francisco (ex: uber)

#1 – on day 1, make team a process
There is a taboo about talking about what happens after they leave. talking about career, doesn’t put thoughts in their head. If you know what they want, you can form a partnership and find internal opportunites as they come up.

Do you know if person wants to be a manager or individual contributor. And know if/when changes.

They recognize that everyone is going to leave linked in one day. Discussing goals makes journey ore transformative. More learning. More growth. More throwing self at these oppportunties. The idea is to try to make it so wil grown more by staying than leaving.

This gets people to talk about leaving before already decided so other opportunities n come up.Sometimes still leave,but at least a conversation.

#2 – maximize employee engagement
Competitors are doing the same thing as you. How keep engaged when having problems – financial, support time, etc.

    1. Inspire – knowing big picture makes it so tasks don’t feel repetitative
    2. Challenge
    3. Inspiration

#3 – talk about recognition

    1. People need to know they are seen and valued – don’t want to feel invisible
    2. People stay where seen/appreciated
    3. Receiving feedback is difficult for most people – even if they say “no big deal” still means something
    4. Needs to be specific, timely and personal. Not just “good job guys”

be prepared – by time person comes to management about leaving is too late.

    1. Observe – behavior change
    2. Assess – personal? work related? intrest. Reasons engineeers become unhappy include- FUD, friends leaving, lack of opportunity, nobody is listening (never solve problems), lack of recognition
    3. Connect – try to discuss/openup. Leave the office; go for a walk. People more comfortable opening up when elsewhere. The goal is to find out root cause. They might not know or be able to articulate it. Don’t argue about how they are wrong about wha perceving. Be emotionally supportative. Try to buy time to solve actual problem.
    4. Act with urgeny – if not highest priority, is it worth retaining person


  1. What if eeryone can’t be lead? People get caught up in title. See why want? Titles are flexible. Look at impact.
  2. How deal with public feedback? Better to be individual than public. Some people prefer one-on-one communiction to public. Give example to show paying attention
  3. Some people like to move around. If understand objectives, know like to move around. And why? Is it about new languages?If just about change, they should leave. Three months isn’t enough time to learn something.
  4. What can non-managerial senior engineers do? Mentoring. Safe erson to talk to
  5. What about people who change jobs once a year? Average attention span for a new thing is 12-24 months. It’s a bell curve though [Luckily tech changes often so the “same thing” changes overtime]
  6. What happens if not ready to do what want? Coache. Help get there. Create “apprentice manager” role to give it a shot.

Interesting and a lot applies to communication in general. Including mentoring/tech leadership.Not just about retention. That said, it was mostly about management stuff.

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