Vlad, CTO at U:Tech, tells how to motivate engineers not only with high salaries, but with systematic growth & professional development inside the company. And how Ace AI helps them implement this strategy.
One day, one of my developers brought me an offer with a figure that significantly exceeded his current level. And to keep him at the job, I needed to:
outbid that offer,
convince the HR department to make promotions out of the existing framework,
and make that developer lay his bare heart out and come down to earth from his thoughts about the new job.
And I wondered: what if not one person, but several, or a whole team did the same thing? Hence, it became clear - I must provide employee development inside U:tech, so that this value won't be outbid by other companies.
Offers from the market are being brought not only because of higher salaries, but also the desire to grow in certain competencies, and you, as an engineering manager, are constantly facing a permanent shortage of resources and often think about the development of Junior talents rather than hunting the strongest ones on the market.
How does a manager know that an offer from another company isn't too much and the developer is worth the money?
How can a developer build a career path at U:tech?
How to organize a negotiation process on different salaries in a company that are equal to the market level?
How to avoid planting a "salary inequality bomb" under your own department, where people with the same level of skills have different salaries?
So, a developer brings to you a market offer, knowing that he carries a bus factor of over-9000. We shouldn't see it as blackmail from a developer, but we should believe in his market value. Moreover, it was our fault to miss the moment, when the developer started to "hold everything together".
In order to solve this issue and create a transparent framework, we needed a tool that could help us evaluate the skills of developers, identify their real grades, and offer professional development opportunities for the whole team.
To find an answer, we turned to Ace AI, a first co-pilot for engineering leadership. The service provides performance, motivation, and growth insights for engineering teams. And we started to implement its framework, step-by-step:
Create skills matrix
The skills matrix contains skills and the levels for each skill.
To begin with, it was necessary to build a skills map with levels that can directly indicate a developer's level, whether he is a Junior, Middle, or Senior specialist. The matrix should include both skills specific to your written code (frameworks, libraries, patterns) and general ones.
The process itself is pretty time-consuming, by doing it alone you can easily burn a 2-week sprint.
You can make a map that will suit your team straight off.
Each team leader took on the related competency maps: for Angular, Go, Android developers, and wrote down the necessary skills.
Ace AI team provided us with ready-made skills with descriptions and level requirements, which significantly reduced the time of work. Moreover, Ace’s skills matrices, or skill graphs, are updated in real-time, so you always have the list of relevant skills.
Identify career level (grade)
Step 2 involves identifying the career level or grade of each developer on your team, as well as any potential skill gaps. To do this, a manager should assess skills using a skills matrix to see the real level of expertise and determine the level of each developer: a junior, middle, or senior level.
AI hack: To automate the process of identifying career levels for the whole team, you can connect Git and Ace AI will automatically show the career path levels of each developer and their skill gaps based on written code.
Firstly, we get the real level of each developer in our team based on their work.
Secondly, we see the developer's skill gaps and growth areas, and can easily add these focus skills to the growth plan.
Thirdly, we made the whole process open to the team, which means the developers' skill level is known to everyone. This comes in handy when developers decide to reveal their salaries to each other, then they will find out earnings are calibrated and based on the results of the assessment. Thus, we eliminate the issue of "salary inequality".
Once we determined the current level of skills of the team members and their levels, we could build a professional development plan that includes learning activities and work tasks for the development of focus skills to help engineers reach their career goals.
AI hack: Ace AI allows to save time on creating individual development plans for each engineer. Based on the skill gaps, Ace AI gives personalized recommendations on mentors, courses, books, and other learning materials and offers to add tasks to a development plan:
To ensure that developers are making progress toward their goals, it's important to track their progress regularly.
Implementing a feedback system helps us stay up-to-date on their progress, identify any challenges they may be facing, and update development plans if necessary.
AI hack:Ace AI writes automatic feedback for each developer based on their work activity in Git, Jira, Slack, and other tools:
Present to HR & promotions
In order for the tool to "take off" successfully and become an argument for the HR department, we needed to:
Approve the matrices with the HR department. They wanted to make sure that skill levels had clear definitions.
Have position mapping on what would be written in the job description.
Have position mapping on salary differences.
Maintain objective evaluation within the team.
It is recommended to transmit the responsibility of updating salary differences to the HR department. Better update them twice a year to the market level, and bring developers' salaries up to the market level through regular reviews.
skills matrices updated in real-time, so we always have a relevant list of skills for each grade.
insights and recommendations on the improved working activity and skills development of each developer in the team, so a manager can discuss grade and salary raise with a developer.
AI hack:Ace AI spots improving performance based on the working activity in Git, Jira, and other tools and recommends an agenda for 1-on-1 conversation with a developer:
We have just started to implement this system, but we already see the first results.
Our HR department shuddered, when they heard the word "grades", saying it was a monumental job. Thanks to Ace AI, we assembled skills matrices and grades for each position and passed them on to HR. Now each position has 3 grades, bringing a total of 9 grades for developers, and each grade has corresponding expectations in terms of the developer's skills.
This gave our company an opportunity to structure the positions, explain salary differences for each grade and keep an eye on salary inequality. And avoid the situation, when developers, which were hired a long time ago, are paid according to the numbers of the time when they were hired, and newcomers get the money of the new market that has already grown.
Ace AI allowed tech leads to structure expectations in terms of developers' skills, give a clear growth plan for each developer, and automate the process of professional development with insights and recommendations.
Developers now have an understanding of how they can grow in the company and what it takes to do so.