You can solve the devops talent shortage — with compassion

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This article was contributed by Chris Boyd, VP of Engineering for Moogsoft

Upskilling 2021: According to the Enterprise DevOps Skills Report, the majority (64%) leaders in various IT jobs struggle to find skilled DevOps practitioners. This is not surprising given the rapid digital transformation of the epidemic and the ever-increasing demand for tech talent. Just last year, recruitment managers were trying to fill more than 300,000 DevOps jobs in the U.S.

And the problem doesn’t go away. The melee will continue for the limited pool of Devops Talent as more businesses shift their assets to the cloud and the tech world shifts to more and more fleeting machines. Enterprises need Devops practitioners to keep up with fast application and platform improvements, but these technical talents usually have a choice of job options.

Many hiring managers and IT leaders are wondering how to attract and retain Devops Talent. After all, they can no longer rely on traditional methods such as heavy pay and lucrative benefits. In today’s world, the fulfillment of the true job outweighs the rest.

Here’s the secret to building your tech team: Employers need to be careful.

But what does that mean? Really Care? And what does it look like in practical terms?

Let’s dive into the specifics.

Anyway what do I know about Devops Talent?

There was once a widespread message that employees should only be lucky to get a job. Maybe Conversations about job satisfaction and goal achievement will be included in the annual review. But that is no longer the story.

I quit my 12-year tenure at one of the largest domain registrars and web hosting companies in the world. I had a lucrative job, excellent pay and a unique opportunity to relax and re-invest. But I’m not happy. I’ve been a tinkerer all my life, and my juicy job no longer aligns with my desire to play with tough problems and hidden creative solutions.

In order to retain people, managers must nurture the desires of employees and appreciate them in a way that cannot be produced. But, outside of preschool, no one is taught how to care. So, how can managers foster a supportive, stimulating environment where employees know they are valued?

Get to know your people

The manager should understand his employees. This simple point is often overlooked because it is time-consuming. But investing time knowing each employee personally and professionally will bring meaningful rewards to both the employer and the employee.

Frequent touchpoints go beyond sending a signal to employees that managers are interested in them. They also help leaders identify their high-potential employees and determine what ticks them off. If you give your devaps talent opportunities because you care about them and understand their professional passion, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to turn to the next best thing.

Regardless of the level of seniority, I interview with every employee under me. When I heard that one person wants X and the other is interested in Y. And I keep those interests in mind, track projects in the pipeline and align work with employee interests.

A promising technical lead on one of my Scrum team, we wanted to work on an upcoming project to produce an algorithm being implemented in Moogsoft’s platform. I had an ideal four month project in the roadmap. And I moved it up, doing something late on the engineering side. Does the switch make me a headache? Sure, but ultimately, it was worthwhile to feed this employee’s interests and show that I support his development. And you can’t achieve that without taking the time to get to know your people.

Be transparent at all costs

In my view, there are simple reasons why people appear to work every day. And I measure each employee’s happiness based on these three elements:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Compensation
  • Who do you work with and for?

While most employees may face a single strike (e.g. you like company and work but feel less paid), most cannot deal with two. I discuss job satisfaction based on each element of the work and try to be as transparent as possible. Of course, I work to fix any of the elements behind it. But even if I’m stuck, employees know I care about them and their work life.

Being transparent also means that business is business and people are leaving. It’s a risk you take as an employer. Leaders are always at an advantage when it comes to transparent communication, while managers should encourage their people to speak openly when they feel it is time to pursue other opportunities. Maybe you can fix the problem. Or maybe it’s time for the person to really move on, and you can plan a transition or even help your employee find the right opportunity. The more information that is shared, the better, regardless of the specific situation.

Give comedy relief

Devops teams don’t need to be reminded that their role can be stressful. During the outage, they know there’s plenty of business money on the line, and everyone – from board to bottom – is watching and waiting. It’s not helpful for me to highlight how high the stakes are.

The comedy that is helpful provides relief. This is often the best way I can help the engineering team perform best when fixing an outage. If the boss is having a good time, the team can relax too. And for performance and morale it is essential that teams give their guards a low and know that their skills are reliable.

I wish my team would get up in the morning and give each other nonsense on the slack or roast each other with memes while working, even without the incident of blood pressure rising, disruption of service. After all, no one – including talent – wants to stick around for a dictatorial leadership style that needs work to become a slog.

There is a lot of talk about increasing employee engagement and strengthening the workplace culture. While I agree that this is essential for a modern workplace, can’t managers just honestly take care and follow the rest naturally?

Chris Boyd is VP of Engineering for Moogsoft


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