“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. Richard Branson
Yes, we bravely quoted a man who has just recently taken a tourist trip to space. Whether you dislike him or think of him in awe, we think you’d 100% agree with Mr. Branson on his definition of what constitutes a company’s number one asset: employee loyalty.
A high retention rate brings numerous advantages to a business. From a pragmatic perspective, it is financially beneficial. Scouting, recruiting, onboarding, and training newcomers is an expensive and time-consuming process. Additionally, having loyal professionals boosts company morale and creates a feeling of unity, a community that is willing to go that extra mile. Maintaining happy employees in a healthy environment is most definitely good for business. However, we see it as a bigger deal than that – our people are the reason why we do everything that we do.
As a company that has been successful in maintaining high retention rates for the past ten years, we have learned a lot about the importance of loyalty and the needs of individuals under the Mistral flag.
Would you believe us if we told you that the best long-term retention and overall happiness strategies for our team have very little to do with pay, perks, and bonuses? How does a company keep its best talent around for the long run then? What are the activities behind retention strategies?
Instead of responding with a list of bullet points, we sat down with three of our senior teammates, colleagues that have been building Mistral’s legacy for quite some time. Looking at Mistral retention rates through the lens of personal stories sounds like a better idea, doesn’t it?
So, What Do Our Seniors Think?
Amel, Salih, and Dženan unveil the real reasons behind their decision of choosing Mistral as their professional home over the years.
Dženan Dizdarević has been with Mistral from almost the very beginning – 9 years! His first engagement was as a manual QA engineer for a global technology and services leader in the audio streaming and podcast industry. He is currently working as a test automation engineer on a brand new project that began a few months ago for a global insurance provider.
Amel Spahić has been with Mistral since 2016. He joined Mistral as a senior software developer and started working on one of our FinTech projects shortly after. Today he is a technical lead and an architect on a cloud-based project for a well-known client whose name we cannot reveal due to an NDA. Last year, he led a team of young developers who built successful ticketing software for Sarajevo Film Festival.
Salih Hajlaković embarked on his Mistral adventure in June 2014. He arrived with a few years of experience as a medior software developer. One of his first tasks was to work on support plugins for IE 6. One thing he remembers vividly is the amount of support he received from his teammates right from the start, and he instantly “clicked” with the company. He is currently working on a project for a global insurance service provider.
Q: Looking at the big picture, what are the differences in the professional requirements of a junior just starting out in the IT industry and a senior developer with a decade of experience?
Amel: There are two types of software engineers, regardless of seniority: those who have embraced their work with their whole being and those who need motivation and more of a boost. The former have a strong desire to add value; they are natural problem solvers. Less motivated engineers, on the other hand, require a “push” from the more motivated ones.
Juniors have much less experience and need to go through the entire development process several times to learn how to write simple and understandable code, as well as best practices.
A senior’s job is to apply what they’ve learned from previous mistakes, to help the less experienced, and to participate in activities that will constantly push their limits, as well as seek further education. Mistral unquestionably provides that opportunity. This is why our seniors are always prepared to be the last and safest option when a major issue on a project occurs.
Salih: I can’t say what the one requirement for doing good work is. Maybe it’s a good laptop, great work-life balance, good financial benefits, etc. However, what I can say is that if I were starting my career now, I’d be looking for a project/company/team where I could learn the most. This is true even now. I always try not to spend too much time on one project and be distracted by the false safety of legacy code base where one can spend years learning business logic and fixing bugs just to discover that this language, framework, or process is now obsolete or irrelevant.
Not to say there is nothing to learn on those kinds of projects. On the contrary, I learned the most important things there, such as responsibility and commitment. But once you’re professional enough, you strive for experimenting and implementing your ideas, searching for new ways to do things, and this is where changing projects/environment benefits you the most.
Dženan: In the context of QA engineers, juniors need certain guidance from a more experienced QA to improve their knowledge, whereas seniors strive to strengthen existing skills to stay current with industry trends.
In this sense, a junior strives to gather as much information and knowledge as is required for a particular project, as opposed to a senior who has already accumulated knowledge and skills and now needs a challenge in each step of his project in order to reach a higher professional level.
Q: If you were to have a conversation with other senior developers, what would you say to them? Why should they join Mistral?
Dženan: The opportunity to work on large, global projects of this scale is remarkable! The most rewarding thing is that very often we start from scratch, from the initial stage to the creation of a masterpiece. In most cases, we also have the option of selecting the technologies we want to use. There is always some kind of learning opportunity and an intellectual challenge. A new challenge is always a goal for a senior in the IT community.
Amel: In addition to the well-known benefits listed in our job ads, there are some that are difficult to put into words, but I’ll try. Mistral offers a strong sense of unity. Everyone in the company is there for you, and you are there for them because you feel like you are a part of one big family where stressful situations are kept to a minimum.
Q: What do seniors prefer in terms of professional challenges, and what, in your opinion, is typically important in most cases? What do you think they find in Mistral?
Amel: We choose what makes us more complete. To leave something behind, that is our main legacy. One of the most beautiful feelings in doing business is when we know that the product we have created, owned, and honed makes the customer satisfied and successful. There is not a single project in Mistral that has a negative rating. One of the reasons for this is that you always have at least one colleague who, in case you encounter a ‘’block on the road’’, will help you either break it or smartly bypass it.
Q: As someone who has been in the industry for a long time, there is a huge list of available employer choices for you, in BiH and abroad. Out of all the available options, what made you choose Mistral?
Salih: Globalization is in full swing, and our industry is a major player in the global economy. Thus, the labor market for us as developers has long since become global. This only means that companies in BiH have a tougher job in attracting and keeping their employees now when compared to a decade ago. What I believe sets Mistral apart from other companies not only in BiH and the region but on a global level, is its humane approach to work. I refer primarily to the company’s attitude towards all employees. They really are the center of attention. When we talk about our value People First, we think of it in all spheres of our community, which includes financial benefits, education and certification, our daily work environment, and the very open communication across departments, projects, and management teams.
Amel: On a monthly or even weekly basis, many seniors receive job offers from abroad. I am mostly talking about offers from world-famous companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and the like. Everyone aims to have a person who can make a difference with their experience. In addition to a competitive salary, Mistral values the individual, the human behind the keyboard, and our mental health, and it gives us freedom and various benefits. Those are the reasons why I stay where I am.
Dženan: Yes, I agree, the choices are many. But you don’t get to feel like you’re at home in all the companies you enter or work with. Being part of a strong, smart, well-performing team is a pleasure and a strong motivator for me to progress and improve on a daily basis. Mistral consciously invests in its people, provides learning opportunities, and genuinely strives for all the individuals to be successful, and even more importantly, satisfied. Employees and their personal and professional needs and goals come first in this company.
The Culture of Appreciation, Acknowledgment, and Growth
Before thinking about our external environment, clean code, and the business strategies we carefully tailor for our clients, we need to take a step back and take a look at our army of people building our company, relationships, solutions, community, and legacy.
In the complex and competitive environment of the IT industry, there is no unique answer to keeping retention numbers high. What we have proudly built over the years is based on our three values: People First, Culture of Trust, and Passion for Growth.
Yes, a satisfying paycheck at the end of the month is important, but it’s not why people happily stay under your roof. Training, certifications, and global projects of value for society are quite an incentive, but isolated from other factors don’t mean much. Our wonderful development hubs sure do bring us joy, but it’s not what keeps us under the Mistral flag.
A culture of appreciation, acknowledgment, trust, growth, satisfaction, and a healthy environment are what breed loyalty and community.
Famous American businessman Doug Conant once said: “In order to win in the marketplace, you must first win the workplace.” A strong community that has your back will surely get you stellar clients and phenomenal achievements. But you have to start at home. And that will forever be our main mission.