5 Ways Engineering Leaders Can Retain Key Linux Staff

As most leaders in tech companies have experienced, finding Linux talent for that open job rec can prove challenging. A key finding in our 2012 Linux Job Report was that demand for Linux talent is on the rise and 85% of hiring managers said finding Linux talent is somewhat to very difficult.

Of course, the other side of the coin is retaining the Linux talent you've already got. As developers become intimately familiar with your code and IT professionals gain a deep understanding of your architecture, the need for manager support decreases and their productivity increases.

So, how do you keep employees happy at a time when most workers continue to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they are asked to do?

A recent Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study tells us something that we think engineering leaders can learn from; your employee's level of engagement — their willingness to invest discretionary effort on the job — is not just a factor in productivity, but is also key for retention. Among the findings in the study was that 40% of employees with low engagement scores said they were likely to leave their employers over the next two years, compared to 24% of traditionally engaged employees, and just 18% of employees with the highest "sustainable engagement" scores.

To help engineering leaders keep their employees engaged and away from the Linux job boards, we've complied the following five recommendations.

1. Let Linux Developers... Develop

Too often, project leaders feel that they can provide value or are eager to stay on top of things. Communication is important, but scheduling a lot of meetings can be wasteful and a drag for people who would rather been working-away on their machines. Do want you can to eliminate distractions and let your Linux staff stay focused on what they care about.

2. Open Things Up

Needless to say, your Linux staff is passionate about open source and contributing to the community. Yet, many organizations have legal, technical or bureaucratic hurdles that must be scaled before they can contribute. When developers contribute code to open source projects, it's a public way for them to get recognition for their work. It's your job to help employees understand how to work with the development community and to continuously work internally to foster an environment where working in open source projects is encouraged.

Since 75% of Linux kernel code is written by paid developers, you better believe they can find a company who will sign their checks and also let them work in open source projects they care about.

3. Linux Training

Since most employees want to work in an environment where they are always learning, investing in Linux training is a sure-fire way to show your commitment to your employees' growth. Skill development might not be a companywide mandate, but by creating "a culture of learning" in your department, you'll attract and retain the best employees.

Of course, training also comes with other benefits such as increased productivity gains and increasing the likelihood of projects success. According to an IDC study on the Impact of Training on Project Success, "projects that met most or all of their objectives provided each team member with twice the amount of training as projects that failed or only partly succeeded." In Merrill Lynch's Book of Knowledge study, Motorola estimated that every dollar spent on training yielded $30 in productivity gains within three years.

Advanced Linux training is an investment, not an expense.

4. Give Your Developers the Resources They Need

Most likely you're paying your developers a good salary so as the Towers Watson study says, "look for ways to enable workers with additional internal support, resources and tools" that will keep them happy, while also increasing efficiencies.

5. Take the Time to Connect

It might sound like a corporate management technique to some, but no single behavior will more consistency influence the quality of people's energy and commitment to a project than feeling valued and appreciated. In the Towers Watson study, 74% of sustainably engaged employees believed company leaders had a sincere interest in their well-being. Only 44% of traditionally engaged employees felt the same way, and only a minuscule 18% of disengaged employees felt their managers genuinely cared about their well-being. In other words, take an employee to coffee or lunch and shut up and listen.

How The Linux Foundation Can Help?

If you're considering investing in Linux training for your staff, we've created a training program packed full of comprehensive Linux courses that are Vendor-Neutral, technically-advanced and customizable to suit your company's needs.

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