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How to attract agile development talent

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 16, 2014
The agile framework for software development brings speed, flexibility and efficiency to IT-focused organisations. But finding and hiring agile talent requires that you shift your outdated mindset and change your hiring practices.

If You Get Agile, They Will Come
But what if your current IT organization isn't anywhere near agile? That doesn't necessarily mean you can't take steps to make it more so, says JAMA's Winquist. But beware paying lip service to the agile methodology without fully understanding the benefits, or using agile as a buzzword solely to increase candidate response agilists can smell a rat.

"Within most larger organizations, agile has become the standard," says Winquist. "Most innovative, market-leading companies are built on agile. But you can't just use agile as a 'silver bullet' to solve larger business problems when you aren't using that mindset to improve operations in the rest of the business," he says. If there are only a few dedicated "agilists" and the rest of the company's not on board, it's clear to savvy engineers and developers, he says.

"Many companies claim they have this culture of innovation, collaboration, but without the entire organization buying into the mentality, it won't take long to be 'found out,' he says. Engineers can sniff out whether or not this is actually true from the moment they set foot in the office because part of an Agile mindset does involve physical, workspace geography, he says.

"Office space is very important. Engineers work a lot differently than, say, sales teams. They need quiet space, like offices, in which to work, but they also need larger spaces where they can quickly pull together large groups for their stand-ups. So the environment also has to physically be able to support agile thinking," he explains.

Planting the Seeds of Workplace Culture Change
While it might be uncomfortable at first, changing the mindset of the overall corporate culture is critical to moving toward an agile approach and to attracting, hiring and retaining elite talent, says Winquist.

"We know that part of the issue is the general, standard corporate culture of 'command and control.' To many businesses, the idea of having this flattened hierarchy isn't exactly second nature," Winquist says. "But you don't have to necessarily have ping-pong tables or beer in the afternoons, but you do have to make some concessions if you want to attract and retain elite talent," he says.

Seeding your IT and software development teams with agilists can be a great first step to shifting the mindset of your entire organization, says Winquist.

"Often times organizations move toward a more agile, more flexible structure because they've hired people who have seen this approach work in other places; then it becomes a groundswell and grows organically albeit slowly - from the bottom up," Winquist says.

"It's a great way to start, because these folks start questioning the 'traditional' way things are done and proving that these practices are effective and transformative," Winquist says.


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