by Joyce Shen

Focusing on professional development

Jun 27, 2017
CareersIT LeadershipSoftware Development

In a market where top talents are hard to find, CIOs and CTOs must develop and implement specific strategic programs for employee professional development.

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While the importance of professional development has already been recognized in organizations, in a market in which top talents are hard to find, it is essential to have an effective professional development philosophy and execution strategy, if an organization is serious about talent.

The most recent developer survey from Stack Overflow shows that 62% of the developers are interested in learning about new opportunities while they are not actively looking. This has been a fairly consistent trend in the past few years. While it is already challenging enough to recruit top-tier technology talents, it is equally challenging to retain those who are in the job.

Also in the 2017 survey, professional development is the top factor that developers use to assess a job. Therefore, in this competitive market, CIOs and CTOs must develop and implement specific strategic programs for employee professional development.

Embed more flexibility in employee engagement model

For example, the survey showed option to work remote as one of the top 5 considerations for surveyed developers. Giving technology employees option to work remote might allow organizations to recruit and retain competitive talents. Organizations should equip employees with tools from Slack to Trello to enable collaboration and rigorous project management especially if the team is distributed.

Create a culture of open communication and transparency

Technologists tend to be individual contributors. They are typically working on features of products or solving particular technical challenges. To build a cohesive organization where employees are inspired and empowered by their teams and their colleagues, CIOs and CTOs should consider creating regular standups or playbacks where technology teams come together to share projects, challenges, interesting learning. Standups and playbacks encourage collective and collaborative brainstorming, provide opportunities for employees to expand aperture, and foster a performance-enabling culture.

Provide learning opportunities to build new technical skills

One of the big reasons that many talented employees in technology organizations look for other job opportunities is that they do not have ability to continue to learn and “get hands dirty” on new technologies, outside their day-to-day work. In many organizations, there is limited cross-learning opportunity where employees can take on a new project to apply new technology or work on a new product, without being frowned upon by their direct managers. In addition, there is limited ways to get training on new programming languages, frameworks or emerging technologies. While new languages and frameworks might not be immediately relevant to the organizations today, they are relevant to allow technologists to stay current. Thus, it is essential to allocate budget to enable employees to learn new skills and apply those skills to new projects. 

  • The survey shows that the top 5 popular programming languages are Javascript, SQL, Java, C#, Python, and PHP.
  • The top 5 popular frameworks or libraries are Node.js, Angular JS, .NET Core, React, Cordova.
  • The top 5 databases are MySQL, SQL Server, SQLite, PostgresSQL, MongoDB.
  • The top 5 preferred platforms are Linux, Serverless, AWS, Raspberry Pi, Mac OS.

Budget for innovation

Create hackathons and emerging technology events where employees can come together to tinker with new technologies and build proofs-of-concept or minimal viable products outside their normal job. Often times, a challenge is that while the organizations promote hackathons, they leave little budget to allow well organized hackathons to take place and be replicated in different parts of the organization and in different locations.

Develop technical leaders and not feature engineers

A good engineer is someone who can write elegant codes and work with product manager to deliver features or products on time. A great engineer is not only a good feature engineer but also a well-trained manager who can manage, enable, develop and retain younger technical talents. As technology organizations become more diverse and require talents to innovate alongside business to serve customers, it is ever more important for CIOs and CTOs to create mechanisms and paths to develop good engineers into great engineers who can evolve to become future leaders to scale learning, operations and sustained growth of technology organizations and the business. 

Make professional development a strategic priority for CIO and CTO organizations. This is one of the surest ways to be proactive in retaining existing talents and also attracting new talents.