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How to keep tech talent engaged and motivated

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 17, 2012 11:00 AM

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Boston is a technology hotbed right now, ripe with startups, innovative technologies, and a deep pool of engineering talent. With a healthy local VC community, an expanded presence of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook , and a consistent stream of startups being pumped out from some of the brightest minds the Hub has to offer, it’s a competitive race for who can best attract and retain superior technology talent. It’s also an issue that could cause any CEO or hiring manager to lay awake at night pondering what to do. So how does a company stand out when trying to retain and keep the sought after engineers and developers of the area?

While no two industries or companies are the exact same, when it comes to creating an environment that allure desired tech talent to your company, and keeps them there, it more often than not boils down to a few key areas: stimulating technology, opportunity to innovate, recognition and praise, and comfortable surroundings.

Stimulating Technology
No engineer or developer wants to be stuck working on an endless set of tasks or projects that they could more than likely do in their sleep. To get the most out of talent you have to challenge them, arm with the latest applications and tools and let them do what they do best – solve problems. While there may be some mundane work that needs to be completed as part of your business, make sure your brightest talents are working on your most innovative and challenging products. Also, give your tech talent an opportunity to branch out. We have our engineers serving as our mentors during our “Codinization Project” – where all of our employees are learning how to code in 2012. They are creating training sessions and projects, leading the effort to arm all of our employees with basic programming skills.

Opportunity to Innovate
You have some of the sharpest minds at your disposal – why not fully use them? Engineers love to solve problems, finding solutions for what was previously seen as the unsolvable. Utilize “Hack-a-thon” events – where all of the engineers and developers come together to brainstorm and tackle various technical dilemmas the company is facing. It’s all based on presenting them with problems and asking them to try and solve them. It allows them to create, test, and get back to the intrinsic skills that probably made them fall in love with technology. Send your technical talent outside of your company’s walls to continue to learn more. We send several employees each year to our parent company Rakuten’s headquarters in Japan to participate in training sessions, further introducing employees to more opportunities to learn and innovate.

Recognition & Praise
Who doesn’t like to be praised for a job well done? Make sure your tech talent and their successes are spotlighted. We send out a monthly client newsletter that includes a highlight of one of our technical team members to help educate and promote their role in relation to the company. We use weekly all-company meetings as an avenue for “shoutouts” – where an employee can publically thank another for going the extra mile throughout the previous week on a project. Sometimes those displays of gratitude mean more to employees than anything else. Monetary rewards don’t hurt either. We have quarterly award programs where employees are acknowledged with plaques and cash bonuses for their dedication and superior work over the previous period. It’s our goal that each employee feels appreciated and fully recognized for their hard work and successes.

Comfortable Surroundings
Fashion an environment that people enjoy coming to and they will do just that. We’ve gone to great lengths to craft an atmosphere based on creativity, collaboration, and originality. From a relaxed dress code, flexible schedules, free weekly lunches and organic fruit, and a stocked kitchen and pantry, to dual monitors with the fastest machines, video games, and fun monthly outings, our office sometimes feels more like a hangout than an actual office. We’ve found that by designing an environment centered on employee morale and comfort, our people are happier, more productive, and driven to thrive. Make sure your employees enjoy coming to your office, otherwise they’ll be looking at other ones to call ‘home’.

Skilled engineers and developers in the Boston area have plenty of choices these days. Recruiters are actively pillaging companies for their best technical talent, forcing those companies to examine how they attract, retain, and motivate their prized engineers and developers. Before your top technical employees bolt, make sure you are providing a stimulating, enjoyable environment, one in which employees are challenged and recognized as they develop solutions that will drive your company to future success.

Tom Guenette is Director of Marketing & Public Relations at FreeCause, a Rakuten Company headquartered in Boston.

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