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The Whats And Hows of DevOps Talent Retention

Suppose you manage a team of DevOps engineers and find it hard to optimize between talent retention, upskilling & growth.

Then you’re not alone; engineers are more likely to quit their jobs than other tech workers. 

According to a recent survey by Indeed, 46% of DevOps engineers said they are actively looking for a new job, in contrast to 34% of all tech workers.

Figuring out the needs and wants of Devops talent requires a thoughtful yet considerate approach. In this guide, we’ll cover what talent retention methods some of the top companies use and why their approach still works. 

By the end, hopefully, you’ll be more comfortable with key techniques to help your DevOps team succeed.

Employee Data & Feedback Systems

According to Glassdoor, companies like Google consistently hire top candidates & outrank many other companies for employee satisfaction. One of the money perks of being a Google employee is free breakfast, lunch, and dinner – not to mention their nap pods.

Creating a culture where ambitious, talented & remote employees flourish requires above-average insights into your employees and their actions. But this often isn't easy. 

Laszlo Bock, who heads Google's People Operations Department, once mentioned, “We try to bring as much analytics and data and science to what we do on the people side as our engineers do on the product side”.

Some of Google's initiatives include longer lunch tables for employees to meet each other, three meals a day, and unlimited snacks. The company's heavy data initiatives even allowed them to promote smaller meals when they realized that “Googlers” were gaining weight.

Google’s reliance on data-driven analytics for HR should be commonplace for most companies, but this generally isn't the case. Almost everything Google does is based on data, even their hiring events, and it seems their approach has worked so far. 

So why hasn’t this been replicated elsewhere?

While most companies do everything possible to cater to their customer, only 31% of companies measure employee experience, in contrast to the 81% of companies that analyze customer experience. 

This dichotomy suggests that companies are not willing to invest in resources that allow employees to raise concerns and provide feedback on how they’re doing. 

Even something as simple as utilizing comms technologies to their fullest, like Slack, can trigger more interactions and help reinforce employee insights. As Greg Godbout, co-founder of 18F, recalls, “I can’t tell you how many people we hired (by using some of the HR pre-hire testing solutions out there today) who said, ‘I heard you guys were using Slack.’ It just meant that we were cutting-edge.”

Personal Development Techniques & Peer Recognition


When looking at all things personal development, not only does it further accelerate employees’ productivity but it also contributes to a substantial decline in employee turnover rates over time. 

It should then not be a surprise that some of the top reasons why DevOps engineers leave their jobs are:

  • Lack of opportunities for growth and development
  • Low salaries and benefits
  • Unrealistic workloads and deadlines
  • Toxic work culture

Given that a lack of opportunities for growth accounts for close to half of DevOps employees’ turnover rates, mentioning that they’re not satisfied with the training they receive reiterates the importance of a well-planned approach to support ongoing learning.

A wider range of support offers can be implemented by understanding employee performance, preferences, and environment. 

Providing tailored assignments that allow employees to focus on their skills or passion not only helps build commitment to the job but it also acts as a motivator. This can stem from a simple 15-minute project or a year at another agency.

However, advocating personal development courses and upskilling techniques are not enough. For companies to gauge effectively and understand when their employees’ experience & sheer talent peak in their daily work, employers must effectively harness peer recognition.

A United States Postal Service (USPS) sales organization recently attempted to engage peer recognition by enabling employees to identify behavior associated with new skills learned by setting up a simple online platform. The group oversaw an overall employee engagement rise of 8 percent in the initial pilot group. Such strategies were then used to improve work across the company.

Thus, tailored assignments and ongoing learning opportunities can improve satisfaction and employee retention. Additionally, leveraging peer recognition programs can foster a positive work culture and boost employee engagement, driving down turnover significantly. If you're looking to enhance these initiatives, you can make an app to streamline and facilitate personalized assignments, learning resources, and peer recognition within your organization.

Imagine for a second, if all of your friends worked at the same company, you would never think to leave, would you?

Gamification: Cultivating a Positive Work Culture and Environment

If running through key metrics, KPIs & the various troughs and peaks in your organization starts to feel mundane and your colleagues start to feel the cold winter nights setting in then you know gamification will help turn things around.

A recent study found that ​​90 percent of employees were more productive when their company started to use gamification.

But what exactly is gamification & how does this apply to DevOps in particular?

Gamification uses game design elements, mechanics, and principles in non-game contexts to enhance user engagement, motivation, and participation. 

Integrating aspects such as competition, rewards, challenges, levels, and feedback into typically non-game environments to make them more enjoyable, interactive, and effective. The goal is influencing behavior, driving desired actions, and achieving specific objectives.

Some real-life examples of gamification include hitting a bell when a key project is completed or filling up a whiteboard with ticks or crosses to represent the completion of concluded tasks. 

In DevOps, gamification can also be applied to enhance and optimize the software development and operations processes. It’s also one of the many methods businesses use to move to quiet hiring. Here's how it can be implemented in a DevOps environment:

Skill Development and Training:

Gamification can be used to create interactive training modules and platforms that engage and educate team members about DevOps practices, tools, and methodologies. Using game-like elements such as badges, leaderboards, and levels, employees can track their progress, compete with colleagues, and be incentivized to enhance their skills. Additionally, incorporating a live streaming platform can facilitate real-time training sessions and discussions, providing your team with a dynamic and interactive learning experience.

Process Improvement:

DevOps involves continuous improvement of processes. Gamification can encourage team members to suggest improvements and innovations by offering rewards, recognition, or special badges for valuable contributions. 

In situations such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), a company could award points to employees for writing unit tests or deploying code to production.

Monitoring and Metrics:

Utilizing gamification to visualize key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics in a dashboard format can make it more engaging and easier for team members to track their performance and goals. Progress bars, achievements, and notifications can motivate teams to meet targets and improve performance.

Cross-Functional Collaboration:

DevOps emphasizes collaboration between development and operations teams. Gamification can create team challenges that require members from both sides to work together, promoting a better understanding of each other's roles and enhancing teamwork.

Incident Management and Response:

Handling incidents and outages efficiently is crucial in DevOps. Gamification can be employed to simulate incident scenarios, allowing team members to practice their incident response skills in a safe environment. 

Rewards and recognition can be given for quick and effective resolution of simulated incidents – particularly helpful in cyber security related situations.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement:

Incorporating gamified feedback mechanisms where team members can provide input, suggestions, or feedback on processes and tools in a fun and interactive way encourages continuous improvement and fosters a culture of open communication.

Goal Setting and Achievements:

Setting achievable goals and objectives using a gamified approach, complete with rewards and recognition, motivates team members to work towards accomplishing these targets, driving productivity and alignment with organizational objectives.

Additionally, here are some specific examples of gamification in DevOps:

  • A company could create a leaderboard to track the number of pull requests merged by each developer each week.
  • A company could award badges to developers for completing specific tasks, such as writing a certain number of unit tests or fixing a certain number of bugs.
  • A company could challenge teams to see which team can deploy the most code to production in a given week.
  • A company could reward employees for completing certain tasks, such as giving them a day off or a gift card.

Overall, gamification in DevOps helps make work more engaging, promotes learning, enhances collaboration, and drives a culture of continuous improvement, ultimately leading to better software development and operational outcomes.

However, it must be noted that gamification is used in a way that is appropriate for the company's culture and employees. Gamification should not be used to pressure or exploit employees.

Conclusion

DevOps talent retention is a critical issue for organizations of all sizes. DevOps engineers are in high demand in the current competitive job market, and attracting and retaining top talent cannot be easy.

Nurturing and retaining DevOps talent requires a multifaceted approach that involves understanding employee needs, providing opportunities for growth and development, and fostering a culture where employees are treated on par with customers. 

By implementing data-driven practices, recognizing and leveraging peer contributions, and incorporating gamification, organizations can create an appealing workplace that attracts and retains top DevOps talent, ultimately contributing to their long-term success and growth.

Author Bio: Daniel Taylor is an experienced professional supporting candidate with new job opportunities and helping startups fill their open positions. He contributes to various sites and currently serves as the head of content for Hereiwork. 

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