New practices spring from DevOps competency shortage

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Once you establish DevOps competency, employee retention is an even bigger challenge in a highly competitive seller’s market for technical skills.

“High tech has a lot to learn about culture from the manufacturing business,” E3’s Rheem said. Companies eager to retain employees often find themselves in a “perk race,” but perks quickly become entitlements, Rheem said.

Most companies don’t have a great sense of what makes people want to come to work, which is predictability, consistency and the ability to rely on social resources,” he said.

Each human brain has a metabolic limit on the amount of work it can do, but the brain can also take into account the “social resources” of other human brains around it and view them as interchangeable with its own physical resources, Rheem said.

In the absence of a strong group, a good substitute is a deep connection with the mission and vision of the organization — a sense of ownership, he added.

These ideas have been part of successful employee-retention efforts for SPS’s Domeier.

Ownership is important, but it must have defined limits, Domeier said. Employers must break down the environment into smaller areas of accountability, so one engineer isn’t responsible for the maintenance of hundreds of systems or microservices.

“The whole system is a big burden to carry; you have to make sure expectations are realistic,” Domeier said. In some areas, engineers are accountable for a particular internal service or a single customer-facing product. Common-sense approaches to time off and on-call rotations are also essential; many DevOps organizations ensure employees aren’t on call for more than a week at a time.

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