What leads an employee to stay with a company, especially when the labor market is good?
For many companies seeking to retain their best and brightest, the answer often comes down to tangible perks such as cash or more vacation time. Faced with a tightening market for anyone who can build mobile apps or e-commerce websites, for example, some companies have developed specialized bonus programs for software developers: A recent Dice survey of 700 employers revealed that 16 percent had put such a measure in place this year, and that 25 percent had done the same in 2013.
But while many a bonus program is defined by performance-based bonuses or other measures, some companies are finding success in offering “softer” benefits such as career mentoring. Take the example of Sparkhound, a Baton Rouge-based company that offers IT consulting and solutions. “It’s a multifaceted approach, a model we have called employee engagement,” is how Noah Boudreaux, the company’s chief operating officer, talks about its retention efforts. “We understand what’s going to resonate the most is employees feeling committed to the organization to achieve our goals and, in turn, their own goals.”
As part of creating a culture in which employees feel valued, Sparkhound pairs entry- and mid-level developers on its App Support team with senior developers who can help the former expand their careers. “We give leadership responsibilities to non-managers: they’re designated as team leads, and work as mentors side-by-side with the other developers,” Boudreaux added. “Our company-wide mentorship program structure is more defined and mature within the development house than anywhere else in Sparkhound.”
Sparkhound launched this strategy a few years ago, and Boudreaux suggests it’s helped with retention.
For other firms, however, retaining developers and other important employees boils down to a simple money equation. For example, Microsoft has moved at points over the past few years to pay out significant amounts of cash to researchers and developers for above-and-beyond performance, often in response to rivals such as Google attempting to lure the same core employees. Such acquisitions represent a serious threat for many firms, given how hiring managers and recruiters nationwide have indicated a desire to hire more technology professionals throughout this year. Despite all the money, however, the key to keeping software developers might center just as much on providing intangibles such as career advice.
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