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professional development: the key to retaining your best engineers

Posted on August 21, 2019 by Jack Trompert


In a candidate-driven market, it can be tough to attract and retain great talent. Studies show that younger workers tend to change jobs in pursuit of better career development and learning opportunities. Since hiring managers have to contend with a serious skills gap and talent gap, it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep strong talent satisfied. That means employers need to stay proactive to avoid losing some of their best engineers to competitors who offer more opportunities.

If your company hasn’t prioritized career and personal growth, it’s time to make some changes. Providing thoughtful ways to grow within the company is a great way to invest in the long-term health of your organization. In addition to increasing retention, employee morale and satisfaction, and productivity, a focus on employee growth can help shape the next generation of leaders.

Thankfully, making these changes doesn’t have to involve a top-down makeover of your whole engineering operation. Let’s look at some simple ways your company can start to grow your engineers internally:

Provide engineering mentorship

While goal setting and career guidance are typically conducted during performance assessments, mentors can provide more regular encouragement and advice to help employees reach specific goals. Proactive mentorship can take many forms: manager mentorship, peer mentorship, or formal coaching. All of these are great options to provide invaluable support. However, it’s important to consider a mentorship that complements engineers’ goals, working styles, and roles in the company. 

Let’s take a look at three:

Manager mentorship

Talented new to mid-level engineers may be fluent in a set of skills, but that doesn’t mean they’re articulate in every specific skill their jobs require. It’s up to engineering managers to bring out their potential and offer learning opportunities. Managers are uniquely placed to help engineers discover where they want to be and how to get there. 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship between a manager and an engineer generally calls for consistent one-on-one meetings. Managers should schedule time (either weekly or monthly) to explore ways to help employees develop their skills to meet company and employee goals, and should also be sure to follow up between these meetings to keep employees on track to reach their targets.

Peer mentorships

If your organization has a positive and collaborative culture, you’ll find that your seasoned employees are generally willing to share their expertise and knowledge with others. Channeling this energy and initiative with peer mentorships is a great way to acquaint engineers with power players in the team. 

Consider keeping an ongoing communication channel where people can offer and request guidance on a variety of topics. For example, at Asana, team members share knowledge like product development, leadership, processes, and communication. If engineers have questions outside their wheelhouse, they’ll know who and how to ask. 

Formal coaching

Sometimes, it can be hard for engineers to ask for help, especially if they’re at a certain level of responsibility and seniority. In these cases, a formal coaching mentorship is an excellent option for engineers, since it can provide a tailored and thorough approach to career planning and personal development. With a wide range of impressive coaches from online sources or reputable professional groups, it’s a good idea to work with your engineers to find the right person to help them reach their goals.

Lead by example

As an engineering manager, you’re in a unique position to foster an environment of curiosity and continuous learning. Leading by example is a simple (but effective) way to build a culture of learning in the workplace. Continually develop and sharpen your own skills, and encourage others to do the same. You may also want to keep a running crowd-sourced list of helpful books, forums, podcasts, and even good engineering associations for everyone on your team to access.

What’s next

Helping your engineers grow internally can not only help them make the most of their careers but also keeps them engaged and productive. By implementing the above strategies and tactics to keep your employees thriving and engaged, engineering leaders can help shape the future of the company.

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Jack Trompert

In 2010, Jack and Janet Trompert started Talent 101 with a clear new vision on how to deliver talent to the marketplace. To work at Talent 101 is to be a part of something creative and big. From our modest roots as an ambitious startup, to becoming a global workforce solution provider to the world’s most recognized semiconductor companies, our growth and momentum owes a lot to our strong company culture of customer service, can do attitude, sense of urgency and always focus on the client and talent.