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Skills Development

Retain and Develop Your Engineers With Mentoring, Coaching and Sponsorship

  • 08/11/2022
  • Frances Campbell
  • 5 mins read

Employee churn in engineering teams is a major headache for team leads.

With staff turnover in the IT industry greater than in any other sector (13.2%) and even higher for software engineers specifically (21.7%), this is not an isolated problem.

Hiring software developers and engineers costs money. Recruitment, developer onboarding and software developer training are not free and when your top employees churn you’re losing valuable knowledge, skills and morale. On top of this, many companies are grappling with a high risk of engineer burnout and an incredibly competitive hiring landscape.

With so many companies competing over pay and benefits, how do you attract, retain and develop top engineers?

This is where holistically developing your engineering team through learning and development comes into play. By utilising mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in your engineering team, you can go a long way to develop your engineers, retain talent and avoid burnout.

Find out more about embedding mentoring in your engineering team with Guider.

 

Why is turnover so high in engineering teams?

There are a number of reasons for this. The top reasons developers leave their jobs are cited as; seeking higher compensation, a lack of advancement in their current role, more career growth opportunities, and being unsatisfied with leadership.

This is bad news for company budgets with the average cost to replace a highly-skilled employee estimated at 213% of their annual salary. Given the competitive hiring landscape, many companies are struggling to compete to attract top talent.

Pay isn’t a magic fix, however. Even large companies such as Google and Amazon suffer from a median employee tenure of just a year. The problem is that unhappy engineers can easily be lured elsewhere by better compensation, but quickly experience the same struggles and burnout that they had before.

So, if higher pay isn’t the answer, then we can quickly see that engineering teams need a solution that addresses the other root causes of employee churn. It’s time to look at software developer training, developer onboarding and pastoral care.

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What tools can I use to develop my engineering team?

A key tool to prevent employee churn is learning and development. This is where mentoring, coaching and sponsorship play a key role (but more on that later!)

Often, engineers can feel as though they’re coding machines, expected to deliver high-quality results without being offered the pastoral and holistic care to help them develop. Utilising software developer training is an important way to develop your team.

There are two key ways that learning can become a core pillar in your retention strategy:

1:1 support in technical skills development

A major perk for attracting and retaining talent is providing 1:1 support. By pairing engineers with senior engineers for mentoring and skill development you can provide a key channel for continuous, collaborative learning in your team. This will also build relationships and networks.

1:1 support in holistic development

Through mentoring, coaching and sponsorship, you can provide support in wider holistic development. Because engineers are not just there to code. We all need a range of people and communication skills in order to progress in our careers. Whether you want to develop your team or inspire future leaders, providing the right development opportunities is essential.

When you support people to hone their technical and communication skills, build relationships, successfully navigate power structures and implement change in their organisation, it impacts not just their performance but how they feel at work.

Helping people to feel seen, heard and valued improves job satisfaction and engagement. This in turn affects retention, preventing employee churn. So, by offering core benefits focussing on learning and development you can tackle multiple areas at once.

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How do mentoring, coaching and sponsorship benefit and develop engineers? 

Mentoring, coaching and sponsorship are three great ways to support learning and development in your engineering team. They work to improve both technical skill sharing and holistic development.

The benefits of mentoring engineers

Mentoring is the act of helping another person by listening, giving guidance and sharing your experience. It’s a powerful personal development tool that is centred on human-to-human connection.

Find out more about mentoring in our Mentoring FAQs.

For engineering teams, mentoring has multiple benefits. As codebases change, engineers need to be constantly learning to keep their skills up to date. By pairing engineers with a senior mentor, they can share skills and knowledge, creating a culture of social learning.

Mentoring can also up-skill your team in other areas such as communication, leadership, networking and confidence-building. It provides relationships outside of line management in which your developers can build their wider skillset.

The good news is that we know mentoring improves retention rates, with 72% retention for mentees and 69% for mentors. It can be used as part of developer onboarding and software developer training to make sure your hires want to stay.

Find out how to start a mentoring program in this step-by-step guide.

The benefits of coaching engineers

Coaching is the practice of a trained coach working with groups or individuals to develop in specific areas. While it’s similar to mentoring, the main difference is that coaches do not need to have experience in what the coachee is going through to be effective.

Find out more about the difference between coaching and mentoring in our guide  

Coaches are focused on building wider skills through the tools and techniques they learn in training. By asking the right questions, they can help you to find a solution. Offering coaching to your engineers creates targeted learning opportunities that unlock your team’s potential.

This tool is great for developing communication and personal skills, showing your developers that they are valued for their whole selves, not just their knowledge.

The benefits of sponsorship for engineers

Finally, sponsorship is when a more senior person, the sponsor, acts as a champion to someone more junior, the sponsee. They focus on opening doors and putting the sponsee forward for opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

A sponsor will go beyond the role of a mentor and actively provide their sponsee with opportunities for progression, promotion and more. Sponsorship has wide-ranging benefits for career progression, as individuals that may struggle to put themselves forward for opportunities have a channel to find further support.

It is also a powerful tool for diversity and inclusion. We know that there’s a diversity issue in the field, with women making up just 16.4% of the IT workforce. Done right, sponsorship programs are a fantastic way to break down systemic barriers to career progression for under-represented groups.

How do I implement mentoring, coaching and sponsorship?

That’s where we’re here to help! With our mentoring software, you can set up and scale programs in mentoring, coaching and sponsorship with ease.

Our easy-to-use platform connects developers with the right people that can help them to:

✅ Up-skill

✅ Build networks

✅ Find holistic support


Find out more in our guide: What is Mentoring Software.

We guide you through the whole process, from set-up and promotion to feeding back the ROI at the end of the program. The Guider platform is a secure and simple solution to embedding social learning in your company culture.

Implementing a mentoring, coaching or sponsorship program will lead to better retention, engagement and productivity, while also helping to prevent burnout. Your engineers are the backbone of your company. By proactively investing in their development, you can create a team that’s built to last.

Want to find out more about how we can help implement a mentoring, coaching or sponsorship program at your organisation? Book a chat with our team today!