We love Agile! We get more done, we know what everyone is doing, and people are more engaged right?
But the Agile leaders I have spoken to report that teams with even the most well implemented Agile methodologies can still suffer from high turnover.
This is a huge problem considering that according to research by Bersin and Associates (the HR consulting arm of Deloitte in the USA) the average cost to replace staff is 50% – 200% of their starting wage.
Even if you don’t experience high turnover, if you lose a single developer with an average salary of $100,000 per year, that is going to cost you a minimum $50,000 to recruit, retrain and get them fully productive.
If you lose 10 developers in a larger team over a period of one year that’s $500,000!!! If you lose seniors or managers that number is guaranteed to go up to 200% of their starting salary based on the cost of knowledge loss to the organisation plus key leaders tend to take out entire teams with them.
So why the turnover when we should have motivated, supported, trusting, self-organising teams creating exciting products in fabulous cultures?
You might argue that it’s predominately a boom market where people leave purely for money. Well, according to research by Culture Amp that’s just not the case. A recent study by them found that 51% of its respondents from the tech industry said that training and development opportunities (or lack thereof) was the number one reason that impacted their level of commitment to their current organisation – Pay was a motivator for only 11% of respondents.
So, this means even in the most well managed Agile environment, when people want and need to balance their careers with self-development it’s not happening as the focus is wholly on getting product out the door.
It also says that technical people really WANT personal and professional development in their careers – they just don’t know how to ask for it or make time for it if the culture or their leader doesn’t allow for it.
Below is common of what many Agile leaders tell me:
- My team struggles to get time to engage in personal or professional development
- My team doesn’t know how to design a clear career path
- Any delivery time ‘left over’ at the end of sprints is still not put towards personal or professional development, they just do more work.
- Innovation days are not for career planning, training and development they are focused around product and delivery.
So, the problem with turnover in tech teams could lie in an imbalance of delivery to development (input to output) for the individuals who make up our Agile teams.
As the diagram shows below there are four main ‘people skills’ a leader will need to spend their time on to build and manage a high performing team.
The top quadrants are ‘output’ considerations of Recruitment and Selection as well as Performance Management. It’s also where leaders currently spend 80% – 90% of their ‘people attention’.
The bottom two quadrants are the ‘input’ considerations of Career Planning and Professional Development for each individual in the team.
What seems to happen in many teams is that the bottom two quadrants get minimal attention; leaders are not taught the skills to have these types of conversations with their teams or ignored completely in the team culture.
Most importantly in Agile environments leaders are not making time to schedule in training and development activity as part of their sprints for the team members.
The idea is to not only make space for the training, but to encourage it, drive it and celebrate it. This changes the entire culture to one that fosters learning and development rather than one that requires its staff to do development themselves after hours.
This is what creates the motivation; this is what gives them the support. This balance is what generates the trust and what ultimately gives them the technical skills to do their job and do it most efficiently.
In my observation of 15 years in the tech industry working closely with leaders in the development and Agile environments, two things are happening; leaders are NOT having the conversations that support and guide the individual toward development and/or the culture is not set up to enable the individual to actually DO the development.
Based on keeping your staff for longer, keeping them more engaged and also improving productivity, help your leaders understand how to make time for training, how to encourage development and foster a culture of conversations about these things as well as career planning and you will see your retention rise and employee engagement increase without affecting your productivity.
Love your work!
Are you a female leader in IT or want to be? I’m running a FREE event on the 14th of November in Melbourne. Click the link below for more details and snap up your ticket. Bring a girlfriend (or three) and learn how to step it up in 2019 in the technology industry.
See you there!