Our clients often ask us how to retain exceptional developers in a highly competitive tech market. Evgeniya Yakovchenko, Head of Client Service and HR at Daxx, sheds light on Daxx’s retention services and shares practical HR management insights.
Evgeniya has spent 10 years in HR developing and implementing HR strategies as well as providing a full scope of HR services to international clients.
Now, Evgeniya works with Daxx, adding her expertise to further improve the retention strategy at the company.
After years of working in HR, Evgeniya understands all the pains of business owners who struggle to hire software developers to build a dedicated development team. They spend lots of money and time filling the same positions over and over again.
In this interview, Evgeniya shares her accumulated experience to help employers overcome high staff turnover with a well-structured system of retention services.
She outlines and describes each component of high-quality retention, tells why an HR manager is a client's business partner, and explains in what way Daxx’s HR practices are unique.
Q: What do HR services cover? Why is it important for a company to map out their HR strategy carefully?
HR services at Daxx include the full scope of HR processes:
- Onboarding and adaptation
- Performance management
- Compensation and benefits
- Training and development
Though there's no separate block called “retention,” each HR service is an inseparable part of the retention strategy. While the first question our clients ask is, "How fast do you hire?" the second always is, "How do you retain developers?"
And it is hardly surprising that business owners care about successful retention of their potential employees considering how rapidly the Ukrainian tech market is growing.
Each year the market grows by 20-25%, adding numerous product companies, tiny startups, large projects from global giants, and multiple outsourcing companies.
As the competition for tech talent is getting fiercer, companies resort to versatile tricks to hunt for professionals — offer above the line salaries, invent ridiculous job titles and seniority levels, and promise projects with exciting new technologies.
The extent of retention tools is individual for each client, and in most cases, it will depend on the specifics of the company, size of the remote team and clients' goals.
Q: What are the main retention tools you use at Daxx?
These are the main retention tools in my view, and it’s worth mentioning that some of them come into force well before a new employee starts to work with us:
Structuring the right team composition
There are cases when business owners think that if they hire 10 senior developers, everything will be perfect because they have 10 incredibly experienced people on the team.
However, in practice, there won't be enough compelling tasks for 10 seniors, so some of them will take leading positions, while others will have to sacrifice their ambitions.
That's why it's important to get involved and help the client build a well-structured team on the initial stage.
All-round preparation for remote cooperation
If our client is a young company that hasn't yet structured all their business processes and communication channels, we consult them on how to manage that efficiently, especially in the remote mode.
We’ve even developed a separate service called process consulting. At Daxx, we also provide our clients with custom advice on how to build communication with their remote team, including individual choice of appropriate methodology (Scrum, Kanban, etc.)
An HR manager is also responsible for ensuring smooth communication between the client and Daxx developers — all the necessary equipment and tools are set up in advance.
We often recommend our clients to invite their new hires to their home office during the first few weeks to establish personal connections and make knowledge transfer move faster.
But if for whatever reason you can't invite developers to your office, you can come to ours to get acquainted with your new employees in person.
As a result, when new employees meet their future coworkers face-to-face, the entry barrier lowers significantly.
We make sure that a new employee has all the necessary equipment, tools, and information for a fail-safe start of work. Apart from that, we strive to make a positive first impression from day one.
In this process, an HR manager and an employer brand manager work together to provide high-quality onboarding. First of all, we make a presentation about the company's history, its values, our cooperation model, company structure, our clients, and other aspects.
Naturally, the opportunity to work with a client directly is a big motivation for professionals, which is impossible within classic outsourcing where developers are managed by the vendor and don't have the opportunity to communicate with the client without any third party involvement.
Each new employee receives a welcome pack and a personalized email that introduces them to managers and colleagues, and includes all the necessary information about internal channels of communication, basic information about the office, and more.
We spend the first day showing the newcomer around, outlining our formal and informal rules (no less important), and getting them acquainted with their HR manager. Throughout the first week, the new employee also gets to know their responsibilities during the probation period.
During the probation period, the client and the engineer communicate very closely. At the end of the first day of work, we organize a first-day check — the HR manager communicates with both the new employee and the client to find out whether they have any questions and to get their first impressions from the collaboration.
Next comes a first week check: the new developers and the client have already made some conclusions, and we check whether both parties are satisfied with their cooperation so far. After that, we have a first month check and a probation completion meeting. At this point we draw conclusions and set goals for the next six months together with the client.
In addition to the meetings mentioned above, each half a year we hold job satisfaction meetings. However, if a client has a dynamic development process and their team is growing fast, we organize job satisfaction meetings once per quarter.
During performance management and job satisfaction meetings, we communicate with employees and ask whether they’re comfortable with the workload, find out if their tasks are manageable and challenging enough, check what they think about the management consistency, and share the results with the client.
Salary review process
Salary review is a two-sided process because on the one hand, we need to satisfy employees’ aspirations to motivate them, and on the other hand, we need to structure our recommendations according to the financial abilities of the client.
Our task here is to provide balanced recommendations for salary review. Salary review is always based on the performance of an employee and their attitude to work (loyalty, innovativeness, readiness to help, discipline, and willingness to share knowledge with colleagues) as well as on market salary statistics.
As part of the HR management service we also build a risk management strategy in case the developer decides to leave. At this point we calculate the total cost of replacement and how soon we'll be able to hire a new person for the position.
We also have a team review process which is relevant for clients that have mid-size and large teams. For this service, HR managers arrange job satisfaction meetings with each team member separately. They find out what employees think about their responsibilities, work conditions, relationships with colleagues, etc.
Based on these one-to-one meetings, an HR manager compiles a report on positive vs negative trends, adding recommendations on how to fix the latter.
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Training and development
We always search for professional development opportunities for our clients’ employees and recommend business owners to go with the ones that would be useful for both their companies and the remote professionals developing their products. We organize internal training sessions as well as giveaways for conferences and various meetups, both local and international.
In addition to that, we pay special attention to organizing internal communities based around sports, entertainment, education, and social responsibility. One of the latest events we organized was "Run to Amsterdam," aimed to encourage Daxx employees to participate in a running marathon in Amsterdam.
Daxx community managers also organize team breakfasts, movie nights and all sorts of other get-togethers to make sure everyone gets to spend some quality leisure time with their coworkers.
Q: Could you describe the main goals and responsibilities of an HR manager at Daxx in more detail? Is their role similar to a business partner?
An HR manager at Daxx is a business partner for a client, and a people partner for an employee. If a team member is out of sync with the manager; can't get on well with the team; is dissatisfied or tired; is bored with their day-to-day tasks; feels like there's a lack of opportunities for professional growth; etc. – an HR manager does their best to settle the problem.
And this is a two-way process — if a client has any HR-related questions, they’ll get qualified help too.
We always know what an employee's concerns are, and an HR manager starts to work on them immediately using such collaboration channels as talks, recommendations, and coaching. If there's something they can't solve on their own, the HR manager asks for the client's involvement.
At Daxx, HR managers aim to build trustful relationships with our developers to ensure they feel free to consult their managers whenever they run into problems or have questions about their future career paths.
For example, if a developer has an offer from another company (which naturally happens, especially with middle and senior developers), they can freely come to their HR manager and ask for advice on whether the offer is worthwhile and what their future at Daxx would be if they declined it.
The HR manager will discuss it with the developer and detect what exactly lures them at the other company. There have been cases when developers were sold on a higher salary or greenfield development opportunities. In such situations, the HR manager won’t discourage an employee because in the end, keeping unmotivated people on the team hurts the client as much as the developers.
If someone has truly outgrown their position, we'll let the client know in advance, discussa prolonged notice period to make sure the product doesn't suffer, and open a vacancy to find a substitution.
An HR manager at Daxx is first and foremost a consultant for the client, while retention of the employees can be basically seen as career consulting. A full-scale HR partner takes an interest in business and knows what trends currently dominate the market.
In case the client is currently undergoing some challenges (change of management, hiring issues, high staff turnover, etc.), they’re always there for consultation.
Q: What about Daxx HR employer branding? How does it work?
HR employer branding is yet another one of our retention tools. Apart from fair salary, it's also crucial to ensure that the company's and the employees' values coincide.
At Daxx, we share our values and organize many events both internally and externally — we host tech meetups, support technical communities, and participate in large IT events in Ukraine and abroad.
As I mentioned before, during onboarding, we present our newcomers with branded welcome packs.
We also have birthday gifts for each employee, hold internal events that unite people, organize pizza days and beer parties regularly.
We realize that sedentary work can have negative effects on health, so we cover medical insurance for Daxx developers to ensure their physical well-being.
We also have a referral system that has already helped us build great teams — a lot of engineers choose to work at Daxx through recommendations from our existing employees.
Daxx congratulates employees on professional and other holidays (Programmers’ Day, Marketers’ Day, Christmas, Children's Day, etc.). Daxx developers work hard, yet they also play hard!
We have two large parties per year — a summer party and a New Year party. In addition,we have regular smaller team building events throughout the year.
Q: In what way are Daxx’s HR services unique compared to other companies?
These days, many outsourcing companies put a very heavy load on one HR manager (they typically have to control retention of 150-200 employees).
In these conditions HR managers:
physically can’t communicate with all the employees in person; promote HR practices via managers, who in their turn ensure their team's well-being within the company; provide the manager of each team with tools and consult them on the best individual retention practices.
By contrast, Daxx HR/client managers are dedicated to a specific team and client and always have time for them.
Do you want to establish your company's culture among your Ukrainian developers at Daxx? Do you need to identify top and low performers and have a risk mitigation plan?
Do you want to know up-to-date job satisfaction levels of your team members? Do you need to know the key motivational factor for your team? Do you feel a lack of motivation in your team?
HR managers will help you out with all of these issues. This way, your developers feel the individual approach, while you can concentrate on your core business responsibilities.
There is a cliche that an HR manager’s job is to make people happy. But it isn't true. An HR manager is a business partner whose predominant goal is to take care of business results.
They always work for the benefit of the client's budget and prosperity, including the budget for salary raises, and providing relevant recommendations.
We work hard on our employer brand marketing. When we hire a person, we find out what their personal interests and hobbies are and think whether we can match them with our activities during out-of-work time.
We're very flexible because the motivation of our employees is our highest priority.
If we manage to fulfill it, productivity will grow correspondingly. So an HR manager is in continuous contact with coworkers, is their partner and consultant.
Q: What do you do if the client doesn't perceive their remote developers as part of their local team, thinking they're merely hands for hire?
If the client hasn't worked with Ukrainian developers before, at the very start of their cooperation with Daxx we go over cultural differences that may occur. We tell what is important for our people and share our tips and tricks on cooperation.
Though there are no major differences, it's still important that the client is well-informed even about the smallest things. The same goes for our potential employees — we tell them how to work with foreigners, explain the differences between styles of business correspondence, etc.
We also help our employees to develop professionally, and as far as English is the main language of communication between our clients and their developers, English lessons provided by Daxx are highly appreciated.
We also help employees and clients tune their cooperation. It's perfectly fine for the client to have their own style of work, and for an employee to have their own. Our job is to ensure they meet in the middle.
At the end of the first week, we check whether the team understands the client's priorities, as well as whether the tasks are well-organized and the employees understand their further steps. We don't wait around to open up a dialogue with our clients, but come to them with specific cases and recommendations.
Our clients’ efficiency is the reflection of our dedicated work. If you’d like to find out even more about how we work, contact our experts using the form below and learn everything there is to know about building a remote dedicated team with Daxx.