With a talent pool scarce for senior professionals, digital product teams often see retention as a challenge. Top-level professionals are constantly being approached by other companies and leaner teams may not have enough people to act as a backup in case someone leaves abruptly. I’d like to share some ideas on how distributed teams can avoid/overcome the troubles brought by employee turnover and attrition.

Performance-based bonification

A compliment goes a long way, but money is also important. Smaller gratifications along the way are especially important when major milestones (such as the launch of a new product) are rare and far between.

Like I mentioned in previous content – on culture, leadership, and performance management – it is important to focus on outcomes, not effort. So how to go about this? I am particularly fond of OKR-like reward systems. With this approach, you not only follow up on deliverables but align product development priorities with business goals.

In immature distributed teams, there are undefined improvement processes, and changes tend to happen reactively when things go wrong – leading to a stressed team and unsatisfied user base. As your digital product team learns from experience and implements proactive improvement loops (PDCA), you can have a go at data-driven improvement and software development. 

What does this have to do with the performance-based bonification of team members? Everything! When people know what’s expected of them and leaders can compare expectations/deliveries based on data, this allows for predictive intelligence. 

And this makes performance quantifiable and your budget for bonuses and promotions tangible. If it’s clear to you, it becomes clear for your digital product team – and employee engagement is sure to follow.

People management coaching for tech leaders

As put by Justin Talerico over at SaaSX:

“The competition for SaaS talent is beyond fierce. Almost regardless of how deep your pockets are, you can still be outbid. […] Differentiation, beyond salary and even beyond hard benefits, is not optional. As an organization, you have to be the place they want to come every day.”

That is why attrition rates are closely tied to whether team members look up to their tech leaders. Leadership is not an innate ability and must be thoroughly developed. It is common, especially among engineering leaders, to be promoted based on technical expertise – and people skills sometimes don’t even factor in.

That is why we at Ubiminds offer Business Partner HR support to our clients. We understand that in order for our clients to be successful, both Ubiminders and the client’s own team members have to admire and appreciate their leaders. One way to do it is our one-on-one follow up and coaching sessions with hiring managers, long after the position has been filled.

Career management coaching for team members

It is important to know that, according to LinkedIn data, tech is one of the industries with the highest turnover in the world. The average employee turnover rate is 13%. So how else can you assure things run smoothly and retention becomes a natural consequence of a good work environment? 

Cath issues early on before they arise. Attrition and turnover are a result of worn relationships and recurring dissatisfactions. No-one quits or changes jobs overnight. Here is where, once more, Business Partner HR support comes in handy. 

Your internal HR (or Ubiminds) can also carry out frequent one-on-ones with team members. As a neutral third party, they’ll be able to provide both you and your employees with insights that can be valuable to career development, communication, or even conflict resolution.

One on one interactions between team members and leadership

Beyond these formal events, make sure there is also space for systematic facetime and bonding. This can be in the form of Slack channels and video conference rooms for watercooler talk, but also company-wide practices.

There are just so many great ways to do this! Take Giphy, for example, every Friday, a different team – from product to accounting – gets to present a brief demo of what they’re working on. This is a great way to recognize innovation and, at the same time, promote proximity and camaraderie between departments.

Plan online team-building moments, such as company meetings, happy hour, game nights. Don’t forget to also allow a budget for on-site meetings, with Face-to-face team-building practices such as company visits and conferences”.

What does your company do to nurture and retain talent?

If you consider retention as a challenge and would like to act upon employee attrition and turnover within your digital product team, there is also a low-effort way to monitor this. If you’re looking for employee satisfaction monitoring, the first step can be as easy as setting up surveys and having the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) as a KPI.

We understand that retention efforts begin long before you are managing performance. To us, it is also crucial to attract people with the right fit for your team and challenges. I even dedicated an article to this: How talent acquisition can get the right people. Have a look and tell me your thoughts.

If you’re looking to boost your team performance, you might want to take Ubiminds’ Distributed Culture Maturity Assessment and find out whether your product team is ready to thrive through distributed work. We’ll provide you with insights on how to improve your attrition and turnover rates, free of charge.


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