Finding (and Retaining) the Best of the Best

#Phase2 | Posted

Yesterday, Phase2’s own Chris Bloom was featured on the Drupal Association’s podcast on how to hire great Drupal talent. It’s a pertinent conversation to have at the moment, when 92% of hiring managers surveyed by the Drupal Association reported that there is insufficient Drupal talent in the market to meet their needs.

Over the course of an hour, Chris, Randi King, and Mike Lamb shared many insights on not only attracting talent, but keeping it around. I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen once the recording is available on the Association's website. In the meantime, as Phase2’s Talent Manager, I wanted to elaborate on some of our company’s methods for finding, hiring, and retaining the best of the best in Drupal and beyond.

Finding Talent: Emphasizing Relationships

Because we operate in an industry of web professionals, it may be a little surprising that the majority of Phase2’s recruiting happens organically, not digitally. True, online advertising plays a role, and we share open positions on our website, LinkedIn page, and Twitter. However, many of our new hires are discovered by employee referrals and face-to-face introductions at community events and job fairs. This is no coincidence: we respect our team members’ judgements and encourage them to bring new people into the fold - and we really like talking to new people!

The emphasis is really on building relationships, as opposed to checking off a list of desired skills. Organic connection is, therefore, an enormous help in determining whether a candidate will be a good fit at Phase2, whether the connection derives from an awesome conversation, internal introduction, or past collaboration with contractors. We initially look to have an open dialogue in order to gage attitude, passion, and motivations - it is these intangibles that really get us interested in a candidate. A recommendation from one of our employees speaks volumes in this respect.

The Interview Process: exploring skill & creativity

An interview is obviously an evaluation of a candidate, but it should be less a trial than an open discussion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pay attention to the undefinable character traits that will help the candidate succeed at your company. At Phase2, this means being aligned with our six values: dedicated, collaborative, smart, adaptive, authentic, and fun. Even the best developer in the country might not be the right choice if he or she is not a cultural match.

To judge technical abilities, we take code contributions and technology tests into consideration, but another big portion is evaluating thought process and decision-making skills. We ask candidates to talk us through how they would go about tackling certain challenges, getting to the heart of their understanding of the technology and proper processes. This method also offers the advantage of revealing people’s true creativity. Most technologists have an inner flair for creating, and it is always exciting to figure out where their passion comes from, and the unique ways it plays out when solving technical problems.

Offering flexibility

According to a Drupal Association survey, 44% of job seekers emphasize location as an important factor in accepting a new job, specifically not having to relocate. Accommodating these candidates means walking the fine line between attracting top talent and maintaining a healthy, engaged team. Requiring all employees to work from a physical office encourages bonding but may scare off truly talented people that consider working from home to be a deal-breaker. At the same time, managing a remote team presents a myriad of logistical challenges in day-to-day communications, in addition to the difficulties of fostering a close-knit team.

At Phase2, our strategy is to offer ultimate flexibility for our employees. Our four offices in DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Portland give our social butterflies the chance to bask in our rich office culture. At the same time, about 30% of our team work remotely across the country. Day-to-day collaboration is achieved through diligent digital communication, video meetings on Google Hangout, and a water-cooler-like chat system which allows us all to bond at a distance. Maintaining an inclusive organization requires a concerted effort (such as our annual all-company gathering at headquarters) but it is well worth it to offer our employees the flexibility to live and work where they prefer to.

Retaining Talent: Letting your People Blossom

Phase2 has been very successful in retaining talent, and a large part of that is offering employees the chance to work on interesting and important projects. In a poll conducted with the podcast’s attendees, 70% believed that the most important factor in keeping staff happy and engaged was interesting work - much higher than compensation (10%), or even culture (20%).

Beyond interesting work, we at Phase2 believe career development is crucial to letting our people blossom. Encouraging long-term growth is key to ensuring your team feels appreciated and valued - it is basically an indication that your company is invested in their future. We manage this by instituting weekly check-ins with managers to discuss progress and goals. In addition, we’ve established well-mapped career trajectories. We feel that it is important to provide concrete steps for individuals to move forward in their own careers, pursuing specialties they themselves have shown an interest in.

How does your team find, hire, and retain top talent? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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