Finding (and Keeping) Your Engineering Rock Stars

Your department is only as good as its personnel, so what could be more important than hiring the right team members? Keeping your top talent happy and motivated is essential to long-term success. You’ll often hear the term “rock star” thrown around to describe top performers; like rock stars, the most forward-thinking workers often need additional motivation to stay creative and engaged. Here’s how to find these creative gems and keep them shining brightly.

Build a Strong Network

When engineers talk of networks, they don’t always mean the people around them, but a strong personnel network is critical to your department’s functionality. Relationships take years to form, so plugging someone new into the network can be a challenge without assessing whether the new hire is a good fit in ways that go deeper than a resume alone can cover. When hiring new personnel, ask questions about how they cope with pressure, collaborate in a team, and maintain motivation. Someone who has a similar outlook to the people who are already a part of your network will mesh with them well. Ideally, your new hire will also bring something new to the table and strengthen that network by passing it along to other people within it.

Look in the Right Places

There’s a reason engineering departments often contain people who have worked together before. When you hire someone who’s a known quantity, whether to you or to one of your team, you already have a head start on integrating that person into the department. You know how your former colleague works, how he or she solves problems, and what skills you can expect to add to your crew. Building a department from people who know and work well with one another is also key to retention.

Once you’ve explored individual professional relationships, start looking at the next level up to find talent and look to firms that are a good philosophical and creative match with yours. While you don’t want to head-hunt – after all, you never know who might be working alongside you in a year or five – you can approach someone who’

Build for Stability, Yet Leave Room for Flexibility

Engineers know that a certain amount of flexibility is often essential for overall stability. When it comes to your staff, that means giving them some freedom to set their hours and working conditions. If someone’s most productive after dinner, you don’t want to limit that by confining work to a 9-to-5 schedule. Allow telecommuting and video conferencing when possible to keep team members together without imposing too much structure on how they stay together. That kind of flexibility is a strong selling point to creative thinkers and self-starters.

Create Paths to Permanence

Some of your best workers may come from unexpected sources. Freelancers, temp agency workers, and independent contractors can be a significant asset to your company, and you don’t always have to tell them goodbye when the project is complete. Developing ways to encourage talent from outside your organization to stay with you is smart because you already know what you’re getting.

Get Competitive

Even if everything else is in place, it’s tough to retain top talent if compensation isn’t competitive. To attract talented candidates and retain the top personnel you have, your organization must offer them benefits. That starts with offering an enticing salary, but it doesn’t end there. Work with your HR director to develop a competitive benefits package that includes merit pay, quality insurance coverage, and an attractive vacation plan.

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