Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

Keeping talented employees

I saw a tweet the other day about the eight things that keep talented employees:

I’m normally not a fan of reducing human behavior to a list like this, but it seems pretty complete, and the words resonated.

As a technical leader I am a fan of metrics and dashboards: tests passing, code coverage, static analysis and metrics, velocity, bugs, takt time, and other indicators that you wouldn’t focus on individually, but are very useful collectively.

I wonder if, as a manager, assuming trust is in place, is it worthwhile to go over these things explicitly? To make a “private dashboard” to cover in 1-on-1s, and see where the problems are?

  • If everyone is not feeling challenged, why is that? Is it because the work is boring? If so, why? Is it temporary grunt work that can be augmented with some side projects? Or is the product becoming less exciting to work on?
  • Who doesn’t feel like they’re on a mission? Is it because they are disillusioned, or is the mission bullshit. Are more people disillusioned each month?
  • Which individuals are trending up and down? Is the organization as a whole trending up or down? Which attributes are trending up and down? For all these questions, you must answer “why“!

I’m not sure this is something I will start using immediately, since I am just getting to know my team and I don’t want overly formal process to get in the way of a human connection. But it’s certainly something I would have done at CCP. It’s very convenient for bad managers to rationalize poor ratings, but perhaps some tracking on these eight points can be a start towards providing quantitative evidence of employee satisfaction.

One thought on “Keeping talented employees

  1. robert kist says:

    Vala got it right, but one thing is missing, which is the context. That’s the rest of the company outside your team or project. That’s the boss above your boss, that’s HR, IT, etc. They have direct and indirect control over your team as well. Indirect i.e. when HR/Finance gives you a budget that you have to work with. Direct when they make rules your team must follow, rules that you cannot change, such as work-time, IT policy, etc. Anything you and your team does happens in these constraints.

    If you’re lucky, the context works for you – e.g. your company has flex time, clever HR policies and rules that feel like the company trusts the employees and treats them as adults. But that’s the ideal picture. I think most places are somewhat inbetween. Here the question for you as middle management guy is: what can I do to compensate these weaknesses of my company?

    For example if you’ve been put in charge of a service team and everyone expects you to do boring service tasks then there’s not much you can do to make the tasks itself more glorious. You have to work on everything else and compensate, so that people will end up saying “yeah the work is not so great, but XXXX is and that’s why I love working there!”. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to satisfy every single person in every aspect. You have to pick the aspects that you can satisfy and which have the most impact on your team, given the constraints your team is in.

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