How To Attract, Develop and Retain Great Software Engineering Talent

Keys to a Successful Software Engineering Talent Strategy

Soft skills, like adaptability, collaboration and social intelligence, are just as important as technical competence for software engineers today.​

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A talent strategy guide to upskill existing talent and provide development opportunities.

Software engineering leaders are challenged to hire, develop and retain key talent.

Download this report to discover how to:

  1. Continually up and reskill your talent
  2. Create an agile learning environment
  3. Build platform teams

Two key talent tactics in software engineering

Software engineering leaders must have a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) and an agile learning environment.

Identify and screen software engineering talent to meet the specific needs of your organization.

For software engineering leaders to successfully attract great engineering talent, they need to offer and actively advertise a compelling EVP to more of the right candidates. An EVP is the set of attributes that the labor market and current employees perceive as the value they gain through employment with the organization. A compelling EVP for software engineering talent has the following five aspects:

  1. Rewards —  competitive compensation and benefits

  2. Opportunity — exciting development opportunities, clear career paths, stability

  3. Organization — great employer brand, diverse, equitable and inclusive teams, autonomy

  4. People — respectful and trusting management, psychologically safe environment, great colleagues

  5. Work — work-life harmony, hybrid work, modern technologies, frictionless software engineering experiences, purpose

Job candidates have various ways to find information about your organization’s culture, environment and employment characteristics, such as online review sites, online forums, social networks and word of mouth. Actively and clearly market your strong EVP on the channels that will meet your target candidates.

  • Market your company’s ability to offer a satisfying and rewarding career, not just a job. 

  • Extend your reach to different talent pools using tools and techniques such as social recruiting, video and multichannel messaging. 

  • Develop a pay strategy to meet your business goals, and benchmark your pay practices against relevant competition. 

  • Package your competitive differentiators to attract people who align with your organization’s values. 

  • Invest in a strong employee referral program to increase your chance of hiring people who are a good cultural fit.

It is critical for software engineering leaders to build a team of demographically diverse people who excel at collaborating, who are socially perceptive and who have a track record of success. With the right people in place, software engineering leaders can focus on training and developing technical skills within the team.


Keep your engineers engaged with agile learning.

Agile learning is a mindset and method of skills development, applied in the flow of achieving outcomes that can dynamically adjust with changing needs. Agile learning is not just a training program; rather, it is an attitude and a way of thinking.

In today’s labor market, agile learning enables the organization to develop critical skills to support business objectives more quickly — and provides software engineers with personalized pathways to develop their own capabilities and be more successful.

Hiring software engineers with all the skills you need today is expensive, time-consuming, and often impossible — and you need to develop new skills among existing staff or, for example, early-career new hires that may be easier to find but less qualified.

Agile learning keeps skills strategies current and adaptable — but requires the organization to be more agile about learning and training.

For example, software engineers must be able to both learn new skills and apply them immediately. While there is a place for traditional and online courses, short learning moments on the job are low-cost, low time commitment and highly effective.

Take care not to demote learning to a side-of-desk activity to be done when absolutely necessary or on the employee’s own time and initiative — or reserved for formal or off-site classroom courses. Learning must be integrated into the work day. 

To successfully become a learning organization:

  • Evangelize the expectation that everyone — including managers — will continually expand their skills and competencies. 

  • Make creating an agile learning environment the major piece of a manager’s job, especially as teams become more autonomous and self-organized. 

  • Allocate time for learning to occur, or employees will spend all their time only using their current skills and not gaining new ones. Dedicate time during the work week for everyone to participate in learning and cross-team activities, such as master-taught classes, online individual learning, mentoring, proof-of-concept projects on new technologies and communities of practice. 

  • Acknowledge that integrating learning activities into work may reduce productivity in the short run, but enhance it in the long run.

Learning and development does not have to happen solely in the employee’s current job area. Exceptionally valuable employees often have career paths with horizontal or “diagonal” moves into adjacent roles, where the organization has needs. For example, a developer may move to become a staff engineer, product owner or agile coach. People are motivated by mastering new skills and being recognized for this not just by managers, but by peers.

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