Optimize Your Workplace to Hire and Retain Engineers

This article originally appeared in Colorado Inno. See it here. 


As you start working towards execution on your 2020 talent plan, consider that demand for software engineers is at an all-time high and unique strategies will be required to grow your team. To hire and support engineers at your Denver HQ or HQ2, we must consider their unique work process, scrum.

Scrum is an agile process framework used by software developers to perform their work and develop the product. Teams break work into small goals called sprints that last two weeks to a month. The teams track progress and re-plan in 15-minute time-boxed daily meetings, called daily scrums or standups.

Many managers still assume engineers only want dark rooms, lots of snacks and ping-pong tables for their workplace. While this may be true in some cases, supporting engineers in the workplace means we must align the workplace with their unique style of work.

I spoke with Todd Sheridan, CEO of Agile Samurai Consulting and former agile consultant with Rally Software, about what companies should be doing with their workplace to support engineering teams and their work process. Todd shared that engineers “need to have their separate workplace” to remain uninterrupted.

To help enable scrum in the workplace, Todd recommends providing each separate development team its own room or area. This way, each team can focus on their own set of sprints and daily standups. Finally, while teams have their own designated space, it is also ideal for engineers to be on the same floor to allow for cross collaboration on problems and process.

The Case for Remote Work

While you don’t typically see engineering teams working remotely, some companies are moving in this direction. Popular tools such as Zoom and Slack have helped enable this transition. If you are having difficulty accessing talent in Denver, a remote engineering workforce might unlock a broader range of potential hires.

Examples of great companies with remote work structures include:

  • Cloud infrastructure company, DigitalOcean. They are based out of New York, but the majority of their team (including the engineering staff) works remotely.
  • GitHub, based out of San Francisco, is notorious for its partnership with software engineers and their workforce. At Github, 60 percent of the workforce is working remotely.
  • Hiring engineers in Boulder is challenging. TeamSnap, the app for helping manage youth sports teams, has built a great business by hiring most of their workforce, including engineers, as remote workers.

While remote work provides many benefits, there are straggles to ensure success. Brad Feld of Foundry Group recently said, “remote working success is mostly a function of the company not having a handle on how to deal with a distributed workforce. When the CEO prioritizes either distributed or remote work and made it part of the wiring of how the company operates, it’s effective. When it’s an afterthought, a lifestyle choice, or a reaction to something, it fails.”

In summary, management needs to be deliberate and have a plan, otherwise the roll out and on boarding of a remote workforce may fail.

Some of the top challenges with remote work include:

  • Finding the right people that can stay focused
  • The lack of face-to-face communication
  • Decreased team engagement
  • Transitioning mature organizations to a remote workforce

Your growth plan depends on your ability to hire and retain engineering staff.  Aligning your workspace with scrum, by giving your engineers the space they need to work most effectively, whether that is a private space within your office, or by allowing them to work remotely can help give your company the edge it needs to meet growth projections in 2020.

Chris Silvestri
is SVP at Cresa and Founder of the Denver Software Summit. Having been CEO of a growing SaaS company, he understands that hitting your plan and hiring goals is essential to the continued growth of your company. He combines this experience with an even broader background of supporting large growing companies with their headquarters, HQ2, or secondary sites in Denver and across the globe. If you have questions or comments related to your company’s workplace or talent acquisition needs, Chris can be reached at csilvestri@cresa.com.