Visual Basic

Human Resources Management: A Key Role

Natural attrition and turnover of staff is healthy for any organization. A company must ensure that they manage to retain the people they want to keep and for as long as they want them. It should be someone's job to make sure that nobody leaves unexpectantly. If anyone leaves like this, that manager has failed in his or her job. Through effective communication and human resources (HR) processes, and in an open, honest, attentive environment, this kind of surprise just shouldn't happen-if it does, something's gone wrong. Did the company not deliver on its promises? Did someone oversell the company's vision and then not deliver on it? Find out the departing employee is dissatisfied and then put steps in place to rectify the situation so that no one else leaves.

In other words, make sure that you have effective and efficient exit interviews, but remember that by the time you get to an exit interview, it's too late to "save" this person. They have already made up their minds to leave and will almost certainly already have another job lined up. Proactive management of your staff while they are employed is absolutely key to staff retention. Be aware of, and deal with, their issues before they get so big as to force them to look around for something else. In some circumstances, it will be right for all parties that the individual leaves. But if you know about it early enough, at least you have plenty of time to manage the situation and to recruit and train his or her replacement. In this way, it's a win-win for everyone, and you can mitigate any possible damage.

This HR management needn't be a full-time position, especially in a small company, but make sure someone is responsible for it and that they give it a very high priority.

Career Development

We carry out regular human resource reviews via discussions with our staff and questionnaires. Below are some of the issues that we, as a small(ish), distributed, software services company, have identified as being of prime importance.

High-quality communication is vital Here are some of the ways we ensure that we're giving our employees enough feedback:

  • Each manager writes a monthly update for their area of responsibility, a monthly report to the staff.
  • Only one developer writes a monthly report each month instead of everyone. This monthly report is comprehensive.
  • Quarterly Technical Days are arranged and planned a year in advance. Technical Days are when all the developers get together for a whole day of technical presentations given by the staff to the staff.
  • Monthly social get-togethers are arranged, and we schedule a whole year's worth in the calendarin advance.
  • We're always available for ad hoc contact and impromptu discussions.

Reducing isolation: site visits and reviews A schedule of regular site visits and reviews by managers is necessary to evaluate employee performance. Each manager visits each developer a minimum of five times per year for full-day reviews. These visits are a mix of technical visits and more personnel-focused visits. The technical visits are in the minority, but regular technically-focused telephone conferences are also scheduled. The manager takes the opportunity to speak to the client on the visit, too, but this should not be the focus. The technical visit includes reviewing the work being carried out by the member of staff. Feedback is provided to the member of staff in writing. All site visits are written up and published so that all members of staff are kept in the loop. The entire program of visits and phone calls is scheduled into manager and staff calendars.

Tools to do the job It is necessary to provide a comprehensive toolkit for each member of staff that enables them to do a better job than anyone else around. This toolkit comprises a set of software tools and utilities provided on a number of CDs. Also included on the CDs are TMS's code libraries (see the appendix note on the TDF), coding standards, a copy of our Web site, and other useful documents. Basically, the toolkit contains everything "soft" that might be of immediate use to our developers.

Incentive We find that giving people a stake in the success of the company, whether through bonuses, shares, share options, profit sharing, and so on is absolutely vital to encouraging their productivity and their commitment to our mission.

Human resources It is necessary to have a formal process to ensure quality career development. We use two principal mechanisms:

  • Personal Development Plans
  • Performance reviews

These and other specific processes are discussed in the next section.