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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 But finding and hiring agile talent requires that you shift your outdated mindset and change your hiring practices.

By starting small, Winquist says, you can give your organization a look at how this 'new way of working,' and new management philosophy can bring efficiency and increased innovation, he says.

"Start with something as simple as introducing collaboration tools, or even pair programming, and see how quickly that spreads to other departments," Winquist says. "What we see is that many times, the C-suite recognizes quickly, 'Hey, I have this incredibly productive, flexible, successful engineering team what are they doing differently? How can we extrapolate their methods to the rest of the organization?' and it spreads to other departments," he says.

Find Hidden Gems on Your Dev Team
It's also important to not discount the talent you already have, says Enfocus's Parker. You could have some diamonds in the rough already in your shop, it's just a matter of identifying them and helping them develop both the soft skills and the technical skills they need to thrive, he says.

"What a lot of recruiters and hiring managers miss is the number of willing, able and available people in your company already. Start there and put some energy into transforming your existing people over to an Agile framework," Parker says.

"Sure, that takes time, but you've already hired these folks for their technical skills and knowledge, so you can introduce and 'train' some of the softer skills and techniques," Parker says.

"Instead of just handing your software teams a list of tasks, you need to start clearly articulating business problems and outline who's affected, the benefits of solving the problem, and let them see how their work impacts that how their code fits into the product, how it's used, how it solves problems," says JAMA's Winquist. "Then, teams start to see that they are delivering not just a product, but delivering value, quickly, and building relationships and having conversations," he says.

Where to Find Agile Talent
If you are hiring from outside the company, though, it's helpful to start from a familiar place of strength. In other words, look for the technical skills first and then move on to identifying the traits that fit within Agile, says Enfocus's Parker, especially if your human resources department's undergoing a culture shift of its own and feeling unsure.

"When it comes to HR and the hiring and interviewing process, sometimes that can stall if an agilist determines the company relies too heavily on the older 'waterfall' approach, or isn't as focused on the soft skills," Parker says. "So, focus on the requisite technical skills and also look for evidence in a person's resume and portfolio that can demonstrate how well they interacted with teams, their communication skills, and whether they have experience helping develop an agile environment," he says.


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