Software Engineer Retention, Art and Science

Good management skills in large part is about retaining people while attracting new talent. And when those people work in an environment that can be conflict-prone and stressful due to the complexities of the projects being undertaken, the ability to find the right people that fit well with the organization is critical. And in the software industry, engineers can operate in a unique manner.

We can learn some lessons from Daugherty Business Solutions, a business consulting company based in Minneapolis. They have recently expanded from eight to over 60 engineers in a short period of time. Nick Reinbold, a managing director with the company, revealed some of the best practices he developed over the years to ensure effective management of his engineering staff.

He pays close attention to his employees and ensures they feel a part of a bigger team. And when hiring and recruiting (which he is continuously engaged in), he ensures prospective employees demonstrate a willingness to train. Reinbold states that he believes in establishing a collaborative effort in attracting new talent. The senior principal of its software-engineering department, Rob Jacobs, estimates that he spends 30% of his time in recruiting people.

Reinbold is also a known preacher of employee training. The firm has a dedicated training department called “Daugherty University” which provides seven-week, full-time training sessions for university graduates who aspire to become software engineers and consultants. Reinbold believes that technical training is all part of the process of becoming a “good consultant”.

Lastly, Reinbold stresses the importance of supporting the well-being of employees by creating a positive work environment and offering work-life balance. According to Tim Herby, director of Daugherty’s data and analytics practice, surveys revealed that an employee feels utmost satisfaction when he has a best friend at work.

There is no formula for retaining software engineers and it more often has to do with fit and feel rather than purely hard skills matched to the targeted objectives. The key it seems is continuous recruiting, investing in the development and training of people and making everyone feel like they are part of something meaningful.