I see a variety of reasons why designers and developers switch jobs every couple of years 🧵
1. There’s an old saying that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave mangers” and this can often be true. Being looked after by a poorly trained, inexperienced or under performing manager can be deeply frustrating.
So in order to improve staff retention, companies should provide better support and training to both new and experienced managers alike. Senior managers should also be hired based on their managerial skills rather than their craft skills.
2. I think a lot of folks leave their job after two years due to boredom. Their first 18 months where a whirlwind of meeting new people and learning new things. However things eventually fall into a predictable tempo and the next 2 years can often feel like the learning stops.
This is a challenge for many companies as they are generally hiring folks to fit into a feature factory and optimise an already pretty good product. While a lot of folks enjoy the 0-1 phase, 1000-1001 can feel less rewarding.
I remember meeting one designer who spent 9 months trying to get a single icon approved. They’d spend a week or two tweaking it and then 6-8 weeks shopping it around meetings to get it approved.
It was a super important icon, but still. If all you can point to after 9 months work in a single icon, no wonder folks move on.
To removed the monotony, it can be useful to break engagements up into a series of distinct projects (rather than never ending sprints) to provide shape, structure and end points. This makes it easier for designers to build value in their portfolio.
I think it’s also useful to allow folks to switch between teams. The argument for not doing this is knowledge loss. After all it takes a while for designers and developers to build up the necessary domain and stakeholder fluency on a particular team.
However not doing this you run the risk of not only loosing knowledge, but loosing talent. Some HR folks believe that it takes 18 months to get somebody up to speed and being productive so to loose them 6 months later is very bad luck.
3. A lot of folks will leave because they’ve been offered a more senior role, and they realise it’ll take them longer to land a similar role at their current company. As such, taking a new job often feels like the fastest way to “progress”.
One way to avoid this problem is to have a clear progression framework and allow people to get more senior roles irrespective of open slots. However this can lead to title inflation.
One if the big problems is that many companies still see management as the only way to advance, so folks have to wait around until their manager leaves. Having a strong IC track can help mitigate this.
4. People often leave companies when they feel like they’re not making progress and learning new stuff.
Offering good training programmes and mentorship programmes etc can help here. Not just being mentored but mentoring others. It’s amazing how much you realise what you’ve actually learned when you have to explain it to others.
In the early days companies would double down on company culture. However that often meant a nice office with lots of toys and a well stocked fridge. This isn’t a differentiator any more.
5. People often leave companies early because the stories they were sold at the interview stage turned out not to be true. Often it’s wishful thinking rather than an accurate portrait of company culture.
One simple way to retain people is not to lie to them during the interview process.
6. Another (related) reason people leave companies early is because they lack the necessarily autonomy to do their best work. Conversely folks stick around if the company they work at allows them to do their best work.
This can be hard from a business perspective as frankly, there’s a lot of shit work companies need to get done, and somebody has got to do it. The key here is spreading this sort of work evenly rather than giving it the juniors or new hires.
Giving cross functional teams true autonomy is super important. This means that on product team trifectors, the designers and engineers need as much authority as the PMs.
If “business decisions” always trump engineering or design decisions, engineers and designers quickly get fed up and leave.
7. Related to point 3, but a lot of people will leave simply because their market rate has risen, and the company they are going to has realised this and are willing to pay more.
This often happens because companies are locked in to specific pay bands and the only way to raise your internal value is to switch bands. This wouldn’t be a problem if internal bands reflected market rates, but often they don’t.
Internal pay bands often reflect company specific rather than market specific judgements, and regularly fixate on things like your length of service or length of time in the industry.
The best way round this is to always pay top of market rates. That way people will never leave purely for a higher salary.
There’s also a trend for recruiters to offer a wide salary band, but then to try and hire folks at the bottom of said band. Once people find out that they are being paid less than poorer performing colleagues, this provides a good reason to leave.
One way round this is to pay people based on performance rather than tie salary to job title or band. It should be perfectly possible for an employee to earn more than their manager if they are doing an exceptional job.
I remember being asked for help recruiting for a head of design role. This person had huge responsibilities so I told my contact, the CMO, what the market rate for such a person would be…
They were indignant. “That’s much higher than the band we’re hiring for and more than I make”. So they advertised at a much lower level, struggled for ages to find a good fit and ended up hiring somebody with a lot less experience than they needed for the role.
I suspect that person would have left 2 years later once they realised how much lower they were being paid than was the market rate for said role.
Also ironically this company were “forced” to use a particular jobs board and set of recruiters with no design exec hiring experience. The same people they used to hire temps and office cleaners. So no surprise they struggled to find and retain talent.

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More from @andybudd

24 Nov
Now on the section of “No Rules, Rules” about the Netflix unlimited vacation policy. It’s good that their senior leadership attempt to “model good behaviour” by taking lots of time off work…
However I’m my experience executives are often responsible for their own diaries and workloads so can do this easily. More junior staff often have their workloads set externally by managers, PMs or just the throughput of work.
It’s easy for the factory boss to step away, but when too many workers step away from the production line, work starts backing up and effecting everybody. As such taking holiday becomes a complex negotiation.
Read 5 tweets
24 Nov
Reading the “No Rules, Rules” book about the Amazon feedback culture is making my British self squirm.
While many of the examples are positioned as “Radical Candour” I’m getting very little sense that the people giving said feedback “cared deeply” about the target of said feedback. As such a lot of it comes across as “obnoxious aversion” or simply rudeness, to my British ears.
I’ve always worried that “Radical Candour” favours people in power. I’ve actually done product management consultancy at companies where their adoption of this practice borders on management bullying.
Read 11 tweets
23 Nov
The primary role of company leadership is to create alignment 🧵
Most companies go through several phases of growth, each with their own predictable challenges. In my experience most startups slowly move from being clans or adhocracies towards more process oriented companies.

This happens because alignment is usually implicit within smaller groups, but needs to become more explicit as teams grow and develop their own perspectives.
Read 16 tweets
22 Nov
I’m really liking @gilescolborne’s formulation that design research (aka discovery) is about charging the opportunity battery, rather than delivering value. I think is explains a lot of behaviour designers find frustrating 🧵

Designers have been taught they need to understand the context of a problem before they can come up with the ideal solution. The whole “understanding the room to design the chai, understanding the house to design the room etc”
However I think a lot of designers get hit by discovery inflation. Essentially for every piece of research they do, they discover a new unknown. As such you often find designers getting draw into understanding problems at a city wide level, forgetting about the chair altogether.
Read 8 tweets
16 Nov
I see a growing disconnect in our industry between companies wanting to hire the most talented people, and the experience the most talented people I know have during the interview process. A short thread 🧵
I see a lot of company leaders complaining that they can't find people with the right skills and experience to fill their open roles. Roles will often go unfilled for months, and when they do finally fill those roles, the person will be a poor fit and leave within months.
At the same time I hear from so many objectively talented people about being on the job market for 9 months, having countless interviews and being continually ghosted by companies.

Read 28 tweets
29 Oct
Please complete the following sentence.

"I know I'm listening to a 'thought leader' because..."
I'll get you started.

"I know I'm listening to a 'thought leader' because they've included that William Gibson quote in their talk"
"I know I'm listening to a 'thought leader' because they've referenced Moore's Law"
Read 4 tweets

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