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7 tips for improving load speed

Plan for performance

Are you building a new website? Be sure to discuss the importance of performance early on and set targets. That way, you have a faster load speed from the beginning and don’t have to implement fixes later.

Step 1: test, step 2: test…

Are you seeing a pattern here? 😉 Testing is crucial! Before you launch, load and test your website multiple times to make sure you can handle the traffic of real site visitors. This is especially important for sites with complex hosting, such as load-balanced configuration.

Implement some “quick wins”

To be clear, there’s no “get fast quick” scheme for site load speeds. But there is a tried-and-true template that will put you ahead of the curve. That includes making use of modern image formats, enabling compression on the server via Gzip, and leveraging browser cache. Find some more low-hanging fruit here.

Careful of your images!

Good websites have great graphic content – but they also take into account how images impact load speed. You can improve image performance by considering file formats, image compression, and lazy loading.

Think of the mobile visitors

More and more people surf the web on their phone these days, which makes mobile-optimized sites a huge priority! Since mobile users tend to use slower, less stable Internet connections, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are a great way to get them content faster.

Prioritize above-the-fold

First impressions matter – and your above-the-fold content can make or break them! Consider inline styling for above-the-fold, then loading your code in chunks. This type of asynchronous loading can create a faster perceived load time for the user.

Assess your external scripts

Third-party scripts are a great tool – but can make your website feel a little crowded. Assess the performance of external scripts on your site load speed, and replace or remove those that are negatively impacting user experience.

Salary structure in an agency

Perks and benefits that save employees money in the long run are always a valuable addition to a paycheck. Addition being the keyword here.

Because no amount of pizza parties can supplement the 10% increase in salary that people could get at the other agency across the street. Except, that’s not the case, the statistics surrounding this, point in the exact opposite direction:

  • 32% of people polled in the US would take a 10% pay cut to work at a company where they like the culture
  • 58% of workers will stay at a lower-paying job if it means having a great boss
  • And 60% of workers would even take half of the potential paycheck if it meant working at a job they love

So if culture makes up for the differences in salary between your agency and the agency next door, how do you structure the salaries in your company to both attract and retain top talent?

  • Don’t buy stars, build them – Have a partnership with the local media and technical schools that provides internships and part-time positions for promising students. If you follow our onboarding tips and you build a functional onboarding program, after a couple of weeks, your time investment in onboarding them should already be paying you back. And in a few months? You might just have your hands on your newest superstar.
  • Have a clear progression path – be upfront and transparent with the salary structure. It will eventually become the biggest motivator for the employees in the lower tiers. If you split your progression path into layers where everyone gets paid the same, you can skip long management discussions like: ’’Is a Senior Backend Developer with 4 years of experience worth the same as a Senior Art Director with 5?’’ An example of how to structure your progression path could be:
  1. Intern > unpaid, but gaining real-life skills and experience from an agency by working on real projects
  2. Trainee > paid, part-time or full time; self-taught, certified or freshly graduated
  3. Apprentice > Same credentials as a trainee, but with some successful commercial projects
  4. Junior > Proven 1-3 years of experience with commercial projects
  5. Senior > 3+ years of experience with commercial projects and proficientwith project management and delegating tasks
  6. Management > If you’re doing linear progression, this step is simple. But if you want to do non-linear progression, it’s worth differentiating at management level. a. Senior members with multiple specializations and experience with managing teams b. Senior members with extra non-managerial responsibilities (product development, decision making, etc.)
  7. Equity tier > Management whose investment with the company is substantial enough to warrant equity in the company
  • Promotions, raises and employees who feel undervalued – if you adopt the aforementioned salary structure, your employees should have a clear overview of where they fall and what they need to achieve to move up to the next salary level. But as it goes with highly ambitious people, you will always have individuals who take on more than their fair share of responsibility and then don’t feel adequately compensated. The answer should be obvious. If the employee performs above the set expectations, has the data to back it up, and asks for an increase in pay, they should get one. Sadly, when working with more than one person, it will never be that easy. Ben Horowitz summed it up the best in his class on Y combinator – how to start a startup.

A point he brings up is: If you give that employee a raise, will you give everyone else who is also performing well a raise as well? What about the employees who are performing just as well, but their personality prevents them from asking directly?

Apart from being approachable overall, managers and senior agency members can adopt these two methods to focus these conversations and help employees feel more valued and heard:

1. Monthly walk and talk:A manager and employee go for a half-hour walk outside of the office, talking about current projects, plans for future projects, the progress of the employee and any problems they might be having

2. Yearly progress conversation: Performance reviews are usually seen as a negative process because of the negative associations that people usually have with them. Walk and talks remove the need for quarterly performance reviews at a scary meeting room table.

But a walk and talk is not really the place to sign contracts and obsess over spreadsheets. So how about a yearly progress review, close to the end of the year, talking strictly about the employee’s progression path and salary?

That way, both current problems can be addressed from month to month, and larger issues or achievements can be accumulated over time.

Non-linear progression

When hearing the words ’’non-linear’’, if your mind immediately jumps towards video games, you already sort of get the point.

In a non-linear game progression system, you start at the same spot as every other player. But when you arrive at a crossroads, instead of going straight down the first path like you usually would, you get to choose if you want to go left, right, or even take a step back and see if you can get to your current position again, by taking another path. This progression helps you pick up new skills and new experiences that will make the path ahead much easier.

This is also how the current trend in career progression looks. Companies no longer expect people to stay in the same career path for decades, slowly working their way up the corporate ladder. This rings especially true for agencies, where skills from different career paths transfer almost seamlessly and complement each other with a broader outlook on the problems being solved.

As an example, if you have a frontend developer who discovered she likes designing more than she likes coding, you should give her a chance because:

  • She already knows the limitations that code can have on some designs
  • She can design with systems and reusable assets in mind
  • She can give better estimates on project length and the overall development time
  • If she wants to progress further into something like art direction, the added coding skills are always a plus when communicating to both clients and developers alike

If your agency has people who have invested in their craft to the point where they are considered experts, top talent, or masters, their progression will eventually hit a plateau.

And while just existing at the top and using your skills to their full potential is a fantastic feeling… ultimately, the need for self-improvement and innovation that got them to the top of the talent pool will make them want to progress further. But you can’t really go further up than the top, so where do you go?

This is where people start considering switching jobs or pursuing entrepreneurship because it seems like the only challenging way forward.

The classic solution to this “problem” is to promote them to the management level. Clearly, if someone is performing exceptionally well as a specialist they will automatically become an exceptional manager… Right?

The solution is not always that simple and pushing someone to become a manager (or a manager of a bigger team than before) is not for everyone. Some top talent enjoy being a specialist and would rather spend their time performing their tasks, than managing a team.

“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

– Laurence J. Peter, Author of The Peter Principle

The previous quote refers to what is known as the Peter principle, a concept of management developed by Laurence J. Peter. The principle suggests that people tend to get promoted outside of their skillset and competence, based on previous success.

Meaning: Your best front-end developer is first and foremost… a front-
end developer. Having 10 award-winning projects under his belt does not make him an instant candidate for managing the next project. That requires knowledge of front-end and an additional management skill set, lack of which could lead to disaster down the line.

The modern solution to the problem is working with non-linear progression and promotion. Instead of the career path only going one way – towards management – you can set an alternative path. This could be anything from giving your top talent more influence on projects or a seat at the table when tough decisions are made to simply giving more freedom to perform tasks their own way. Once you start thinking outside the box you’ll be amazed at the possibilities there are for non-linear progression.

And the result?
Happier top talent that gets a truly unique position at your agency, which they won’t be able to find anywhere else.

At SQAEB, most of our junior employees start out in the SWAT department, helping our users with day to day issues. This helps them naturally and quickly get an overview of all the other departments, the products, and how everything fits together. Later they can choose to transition into newly opened positions in the company that they find interesting or get places in completely new positions based on their specializations.

Are you having any fun?

Fun is a fickle thing. Everyone inherently knows what fun is, but if you had to define fun at the workplace, it would not be as easy as it first sounds. Looking up the definition of fun will also get you reprimanded by the dictionary, and there is no one sure way to define it. The only sure thing is that if the most interesting thing at the office on the first day is the photocopier, the new employee getting the tour will probably start looking for another job during the lunch break.

The overall feeling of fun at the workplace impacts productivity. And so it’s
a topic without any specific bullet points, but a topic to think about and discuss nonetheless.
If you want to have fun at the workplace but can’t manage to play chess
on one screen while maintaining your focus on coding… or your keyboard shortcut hand is also your balloon tying and juggling hand… you will probably need to interact with other people eventually. But there is only a limited level of friendship and camaraderie that you can build with people when talking about code and sending each other design files.

When was the last time someone asked a different water cooler question than: ’’So, how was the weekend/any plans for the weekend?’’ In most agencies, it has probably been a while. And that’s expected. If you work in a consistent and focused environment, there are only so many topics that can come to mind.

But if you change up the setting, if you do different activities together, you might build more than just classic coworker bonds. You might build friendships. And what could be nicer than looking forward to Monday morning at the office to see your friends?

But not everyone comes to work looking for friendship. Especially top performers who just want to put on their headphones and forget that they are in an office environment.

Sadly headphones run out of battery, the wifi goes down, and progress meetings exist. Eventually, even the most focused people have to talk to their coworkers. And since you spend most of your day at work, people would prefer to cut down on the dry, corporate jargon and instead discuss or do something… fun.

This again brings us to the topic of shared values. The job of a back-end developer and the job of a UX designer require different personalities. So if your agency wants to have a varied offering of skills and backgrounds, you will have to find values that connect with every group.

But not just the ’’standard’’ values that are put on the agency “about us” page. The values that make up the constantly evolving personality of your agency. If you do this, you will eventually have an agency full of like minded individuals that don’t need to act corporate 24/7 and might even joke around from time to time.

Sadly, there is a thin line between having fun at the workplace and being overly quirky and disrupting everyone’s work. Unfortunately, you can also never get full value-alignment with every person that has been hired. But an agency where people think of each other as nothing more than colleagues and only spend time together at work is an agency that will have trouble scaling and keeping up with the more friendly teams later on.

Your culture and environment both have an impact on the quality of your work.

Talent Investment

You have to spend money to make money. And you have to invest in top talent to retain top talent. Achieving maximum focus in an office setting where a million things are gunning for your attention is tough.

All of that can be managed with a good work culture and processes. But if you don’t have the right equipment and tools, you’ll never be as efficient as you could be.

Maybe a chair is not comfortable. Maybe you can still hear your sales team in the other room, even with your headphones on. Maybe you found a SaaS tool that would save you hours upon hours of repetitive tasks.

If someone asks for a new keyboard, new tool, or new screen, it’s never a good idea to dismiss them right away. The person asking rarely brings up an issue like this on a whim, it has to be premeditated in some way, and that means that the problem they are facing is a recurring one.

“The way management treats
their associates is exactly how the associates will treat the customers.”

– Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart

A one-time investment, no matter how large, is actually pretty small when looking at it as a long term investment in focus and productivity. If an agency shows that it cares about its employees in all the ways that matter, the employees will return it multiple times over. Here are some small or large things in no particular order that could make or break an employee relationship with the company:

  • IT equipment. If you ask someone to work in front of a computer 8 hours each day, you better make sure they have the proper equipment to do their job. This includes everything from computer equipment to noise- cancelling headphones and online tools to do their job.
  • Chair and desk. This one is connected to the one above; spending a third of their day in uncomfortable working conditions will severely hurt their productivity and health.
  • Coffee, refreshments and snacks. We know it might not sound like much, but making sure that your employees have access to all the basics like coffee, cold water (or soda) and some fruit can drastically increase their productivity and improve health.
  • Indoor climate. The stereotype of a developer might be: someone sitting in a dark basement with a hoodie on – but nothing could be further from the truth if you want them to be productive. Proper lighting, some plants and good ventilation are all tiny details that have a huge impact.

Talent Professional growth

A promotion: While most talented people love what they do, as they repeat the same tasks day after day, eventually, they will find ways of improving the process or get ideas for new ventures that the team should pursue. And there is only so much one can do from the bottom of the corporate ladder. Career growth is a key part of goal setting strategies for high performersand agencies need to provide these opportunities if they want to retain their top talent. Otherwise those people might look for those higher positions elsewhere. Please note, that a “regular” promotion is not always the best option; we’ll cover that later in our post “Non-linear progression”.

A raise: Usually going hand in hand with a promotion. However, while every promotion should come with a raise, not every raise has to come with a promotion. Many people are not after the responsibility that comes with
a promotion, they just like what they do, and so they take on more tasks, spend more time at the office or even work weekends. But maybe they aren’t looking to delegate their tasks to their would-be replacements. Maybe they just want to feel like their extra time is seen as valuable by the agency. And seeing as time is money, sometimes the answer is as simple as that.

While all of the above will probably make your agency employees happy and get your agency valuable, educated and dedicated employees for a long time
to come, there are also smaller ways to improve productivity faster.

Talent Personal growth

Courses and conferences: There are always new books and courses popping up, covering the latest and greatest developments in the industry.

If your top performers ask about you helping fund their education, it’s one of the best ways to show them that you are counting on them in the future.

Maybe there is a developer conference coming up that would help them meet some like minded people and gather industry knowledge?

While it may seem like a big investment to send one or multiple developers away for a few days, the new knowledge and energy they bring back will pay dividends now as well as in the future. If they have valid arguments for going, why not give it a shot?

Schools and degrees: A similar approach to the one about courses and conferences, to an even higher degree (forgive the pun), should be taken if an employee asks about the possibility of returning to school.

Maybe they got this job straight after finishing their bachelor’s degree. Maybe they want to go for a manager position and think that an MBA would greatly improve their outlook.

Or maybe they want to slowly transition to another position, but wish to stay at the agency. Customer lifetime value and return on investment are some of the most important metrics that agencies need to keep an eye out. But try
to imagine the “employee lifetime value”, of someone who you helped put through school.

Personal and professional growth

Every movie about an office work environment has managed to, in one way or another, demonize the monotony of sitting at a cubicle doing the same work every single day. And who can blame them? Doing the same thing over and over again is widely referred to as the definition of insanity.

No one wants to feel like they aren’t progressing in their job. And this rings especially true when we are talking about top talent. If someone wants
to stay at the top (where you probably want to keep them), they need to continually have an eye on the newest developments in their field.

The information gathering and processing is on them – allowing for an environment where they can test new ideas, that’s on the agency.

There are many ways to help talented employees fuel their passion for their work. Every person is looking for something different, but we have a few ideas that should be universally interesting for most people.

Is ’’When and Where’’ Important?

Allowing for a full five-day remote work schedule is not something that can be implemented instantly, it’s something that agencies have to build towards over time.

For a large portion of agencies, a full week of remote work might not even make sense at all. But giving people the freedom to work from home as needed on special occasions can remove a lot of unnecessary stress. If a person needs to take care of some errands, look after the kids, or maybe they are not feeling well enough to drive to the office, but well enough to work, why not have the option of working from home?

Let’s say you have a single developer dedicated to taking care of your agency website. He has tasks that he doesn’t actively collaborate with anyone else on. He gets a mockup of the website, some copy, and gets to work. He might also be actively trying to sell his apartment. In most companies, this would mean that he has to run back and forth between the apartment and the office, sometimes multiple times a day, to deal with the buyers, real estate agents and contractors. But does he really have to?

Would it not be more comfortable for him to stay at home and work between meetings? And would it not make it easier for his team members and managers not to have to keep track of his travel schedule? And if the work gets done in the right time frame, does his physical presence at the office really matter? I’ll discuss this further in “Is it time to go fully remote?” post.

SQAEB TIP

At SQAEB, everyone has a setup that allows for secure remote work, and in case of sickness, family emergencies, schoolwork or other unforeseen events, they are always welcome to work from home. We give people the benefit of the doubt / assume positive intent, and so far, it has always paid off.

Talent Freedom

Freedom is often hailed as the ultimate solution to happy employees. But most people have an easier time being creative when there are some restrictions in place.

Example: If your agency needs you to write as many slogans as possible selling pineapples in the next 10 minutes. When do you think you will produce more? A) If the 10 minutes is the only restriction. B) If you have a 10 minute restriction, you cannot use the word pineapple and all the slogans have to be under 10 words or less?

Studies show that B is the right answer – even though you have more freedom in A. Sidenote: We tried it at our office and we are currently considering a new venture in ’’Spiky yellow fruit’’ advertising.

So does this prove that freedom may not be the answer to an infinitely creative and productive workplace culture?

Of course not – because we had the freedom to choose those restrictions.

Client expectations and agency needs dictate the tasks that have to be solved. Every agency also needs to have some time and budget restrictions to prevent a project getting out of hand.

Other than that, the freedom to solve the problem in any way possible is one of the most significant benefits you can grant your employees:

  • The most efficient way to a problem takes all the learning and experimentation out of the process
  • Using less billable hours and achieving maximum efficiency will inevitably mean that the client should probably expect cookie-cutter deliverables instead of innovative solutions
  • If there is a framework, guideline or brand book for everything, proposing new solutions and approaches might be perceived as too much of a hassle to even suggest

If you find the perfect balance in the above, you should have the How and Why of task management covered. But freedom in the workplace is a complicated thing. The How and Why are questions that have to be answered or the work will never get done. But why not take more weight off of people’s shoulders by not having them stress over the When and Where as well?

NURTURING AND RETAINING TOP TALENT

Hiring and onboarding new employees is one thing. But as we know, the costs of employee turnover is high. If you don’t work on having a great environment where your employees thrive, then it’s going to be very costly for you to keep replacing everyone.

Employees changing jobs is impossible to stop – especially in the tech industry – but there are things you can do to keep your turnover rate low.

This post could just be called ’’culture in the agency space’’ because that is the true key to acquiring and keeping top talent.

But what is company culture?

The 17-word, aka the short answer: Company culture is the combination of all the values, social interactions, and psychological behavior in an organization.

The 340-word, aka the long answer:Company culture is hard to define in specific terms, because unlike most essential things in business, it is entirely intangible, a feeling. Branding is closely intertwined with culture in every interaction that the company makes with any of its outside stakeholders. And if you want your brand to be consistent across all channels, you have to work towards a work culture that aligns with your corporate messaging.

A brand is a reflection of your company in the minds of your stakeholders.

That is why it takes on new forms in every piece of content shared on social media, every meeting with a possible client, and every shared lunch break with Debbie from the agency next door. A brand consists of many moving parts, some tangible, some not. The tangible can be boiled down to visual identity, messaging, and imagery, if need be. These can all be changed with a new set of guidelines, a new designer, or a new marketing department, but how do you control a culture?

Culture is not just a code of conduct, communication strategy, or a list of processes. Company culture includes all the small details:

  • The tone of voice the CEO uses to address a reporter while discussing a new acquisition
  • If your employees feel comfortable to talk about non-work related issues with their manager
  • If the new sales intern feels like waking up in the morning on his second week on the jobAnd that’s why culture is one of the hardest things to get right in an agency, as it can not be acquired, mandated or forced.

Culture has to be built and continuously monitored and maintained.

You can tell a lot about an agency culture:

  • In the way, your company treats employees, customers and the surrounding community
  • In the degree that your employees are committed to the company values and goals
  • By how comfortable employees are with innovating, making decisions and expressing their opinions
  • In how information is broadcasted from one department to another and from the higher-ups to the lower-level employees

Day one onboarding

There are many things a person needs to know on their first day at a company. And there are a lot of things that they will definitely not remember. To prevent information overload, it’s preferable to keep some essential things for the rest of the week so the fresh hire will pick them all up eventually. So what should they know on their first day?

  1. Give them an “onboarding buddy”. This should be someone from their team, who they can ask any and all questions to, without feeling like you are bothering them
  2. The values or the ’’WHY’’ of the company
  3. The names of their closest coworkers
  4. The tech stack your department is using
  5. Where to find the best coffee machine in the building, as well as any other refreshments they can get (fruit, cold water, etc.)
  6. How the company intranet or CMS works
  7. The most efficient way to get to their desk
  8. The information and communication flow of your company (emails, chat, phone calls, etc.)
  9. Where the bathrooms are (you’d be surprised how often this is an issue)
  10. What task management solution your team uses to keep track of tasks
  11. When lunch is
  12. Their first real work-related task

That’s about it, any other information would probably be too much, and
as we all know, if you go for a handshake tour with every department immediately, you forget the first person’s name while shaking the third one’s hand.

Onboarding that rocks

Onboarding a new person to the team is a masterclass in taking your own medicine for a lot of agencies. Every good agency prides itself on an in- depth understanding of user journeys and user experience, but what is the experience of joining your agency like?

Placing someone behind a desk, giving them access to your password manager, and asking them to start developing right away is the equivalent of ordering a pizza and giving the delivery guy just your zip code. It takes so much more, and a good onboarding experience can make or break your company’s ability to foster new top talent.

Interview a talent

Generally, tech companies started adopting ’’a multiple interview approach’’ that not only gives applicants a coding test or some homework, but also goes over their background and culture fit in the same depth. More and more agencies are now doing the same. This is where our hiring journey once again splits into two paths, this time, based on if you chose the internal hiring strategy or the headhunter/recruiter strategy.

The recruiter can take care of the searching, first impressions and the technical fit, but you should always have the most promising candidates meet the current team for a short and sweet meet and greet before you consider hiring them.

If the agency conducts the entire hiring process in-house, there is a lot of leeway in the process. Try new approaches and strategies, and eventually, you will find what works for you. But if you want a hint from a company that put culture first and has been doing so for 3 years, here’s how we do it at SQAEB:

  1. Collaborative effort to identify skills required. Once we are sure we need a new addition to a department, the team goes over the exact skills we are looking for. This ensures that the team knows which new skills are coming in, instead of a manager deciding it themselves.
  2. Job posting. When the manager has the final job posting ready, it is posted and shared online internally as well as externally. We know the value of a good network, so employees from all departments are asked to share it with anyone they might think is a good fit. To help gauge personality in the first screening process we usually ask for a short video introduction, along with a resumé, just to get an idea of who you are as a person even before we meet you.
  3. Screening of candidates. As soon as we have enough candidates, the first screening process starts. This consists of sorting out any that does not have the required skills or did not adequately show that they would be a good cultural fit.
  4. First interview. All candidates that pass our first screening are invited
    to a first interview. The purpose of the first interview is to get to know them as a person and figure out if they would be a good cultural fit. This includes having a current team member talk to them for 10 minutes one- on-one, without those involved with the hiring present. If the personality is a match to our culture, they are given homework and invited to a second interview.
  5. Homework. While the first interview is focused on the cultural fit, the second is about technical skills. And to judge that, each candidate is given homework to complete before the second interview. This consists of various work-related tasks where they have a chance to showcase their skills. The homework also includes writing a movie review. This is an added curveball to see how they approach problem solving of tasks they probably haven’t done since high school.
  6. Second interview. We have the second interview to go over the homework and technical questions. This is where their skills are assessed and the main goal is to ensure that the chosen candidate has the necessary skills to handle the tasks they would be given in the position.
  7. Hiring. After the second round of interviews it is often clear which candidate is the best cultural fit and whether or not they have the necessary skills.

Now that you’re done recruiting and have hired the right person, the real work starts: onboarding. Hiring the right candidate is one thing; but if you don’t manage to give them a proper onboarding experience they will not perform as well as they could. Onboarding is the first step towards nurturing top talent.

Talent, Takes one to know one

Agencies have a lot of ways to get new talent in the door. You might do all the recruitment in-house, outsource it to a headhunter/recruiter or grow to a point where a dedicated HR department or in-house recruitment person is the way to go.

But no matter which option is the most viable for you, always keep the cultural fit in mind. You might find out that the person with the most extensive resume might be too far in their career to adapt to the workflow that works for the rest of the team. There are also cases of people with less impressive qualifications, who fit in so well with the rest of the team, that they hit the ground running and start producing work way above their estimated skill-level right away.

Making your agency a cultural paradise for top talent pays off in more than one way:

On one hand, you will attract those who have already proven to be top talent, which can give the quality and speed of work an instant boost. And if they are the ones who come to you looking to join, you’ll have a much larger talent pool to choose from.

On the other hand, you will be nurturing potential top performers from their career infancy and help them grow into top talent with the right personality traits to perform at your company. That has a ROI that can only be beaten by time travelers going back in time and buying stocks in Apple.

This whole train of thought is where agencies might learn something from the world of sports, where it’s a common philosophy in some football clubs (or soccer if that’s the term you prefer to use):

”We don’t sign superstars, we make them”.
– Arsène Wenger, Manager of the Arsenal F.C.

But how do you make sure that your candidates are a cultural fit? And how can you make sure that they can do the work once they get hired?

Contrary to what you might think from our previous arguments about “personality > skills”, it’s important to start with the skills first. At the end of the day you need to know which skills you’re looking for before you can start evaluating personality and cultural fit.

When the hiring process is handled by the department or team that is looking for a new member, the senior members or managers are usually in charge of the process. If there is an obvious need for a specialist that the team doesn’t yet have, creating the requirements should be as easy as simply writing down the tasks that need to be done and translating them into skills. However, if there is just more work coming in for a specific skill set (UX, .NET Developer, etc.), the existing team members should be consulted so that the new hire can complement their skill set.

Once you are settled on the skills it’s time to consider the personality you’re looking for. Are you looking for a person with an extraordinary drive to grind it out 50 hours a week? Or maybe a true team player that makes everyone around them better? There’s no right or wrong answers here – but it’s important to have an idea of which personalities you’re looking for.

The tone of voice varies from agency to agency and even from team to team, and the structure of a job posting can vary quite a bit. But there are still some evergreen tips that could save you and potential candidates some time:

  • When a job has language or certification requirements that make or break the application, start with those
  • Don’t get caught up in the technical requirements and skills needed for the job.
  • Present the personality traits you are looking for on equal footing with skills, education and experience
  • When dealing with entry-level jobs, a portfolio of work could be supplemented with school projects that have a similar scope
  • Don’t put unnecessary year requirements on non-senior jobs
  • With software that has a steeper learning curve, ask for a specific platform that your team uses (Sketch/Adobe XD/InVision) instead of listing experience with prototyping software in general
  • Don’t ask for 8 years of experience in a language that has been around for 3 years

Talent Career page

A good starting point for your ’’first point of recruitment’’ (not the first point of contact, because that’s probably your landing page) is to create a clear value proposition for the inbound job candidates. Until your agency reaches a certain size, you can’t cater to everyone’s wishes concerning work-life balance. Your hiring decisions should always be based on a cultural fit more than a technical fit.

While technical skills are clearly important, it’s much easier to improve a skill than it is to change
a personality. If we want to go into specifics, we can go back to the user experience analogy. When writing a value proposition on the careers page, you need to think about what kind of agency you really are.

’’We are looking for dedicated people to help bring the most innovative web solutions to life for our clients by day, and help us put up new shelves for all these awards by night…’’

That statement will attract a certain kind of people:

  • Fresh graduates with a lot of ambition looking for validation of their skills
  • Experienced professionals who want an environment for their talents to be utilized
  • People looking for a challenge and don’t even consider crunch time a negative word
  • Career-building professionals who are looking for a place that gets them more awards to their resume
  • People who live for their jobs and look forward to evenings and Saturdays at the office filled with pizza and fixing the kinks in the code

Then on the other side of the spectrum, you could have:

’’ You bring the talent, we bring the perks. At AUE Inc. (Agency Used as an Example), we value strategy and planning above everything else. And thanks to our in-depth research and planning, clients always get the solution they need, instead of the solution they think they want. This also means that our employees never have to worry about scope creep or staying at work past 5 PM. Oh, and did we mention possibilities of

working from home or the 4 day work week?”

A few sentences like this on your career page could go a long way towards attracting people that:

  • Love their jobs, but don’t want to sacrifice time with their family for work
  • Are perfect for the job, but would have had to relocate or travel multiple hours every day
  • Are motivated for the job, but also have other ambitions and are trying to run some sort of side-hustle or project on the side

Sections like ”International Workplace” or ”Fun Squad” shows that we care about an open and fun work environment, where your colleagues also become your friends.

Personality vs. skills

Before we get any further it’s time to address the tiny elephant in the room:

What’s more important – personality or skills?

To answer that question, you only need to scroll back up a few pages to find our list of characteristics for top talent. Notice how there’s only 1 called skill, while the rest are primarily based on personality?

That’s no coincidence. While skill alone is incredibly important, it’s what makes them capable of doing their job after all, it’s not necessarily the thing that makes them top talent. If they are an amazing coder, but can’t be depended on to meet deadlines or have issues working together with their team, it’s hard to call them top talent.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that skills can be taught and improved, but personality and culture can’t. And if you want your entire team to perform – not just the individual – it’s important to have the right mix of personalities and culture. If the right culture is there, you’ll see skills improve for everyone and soon you’ll have a team full of top talent that performs day in and day out.

SQAEB TIP

For 99 % of our job postings we use this to highlight our people- first focus:

”We care about people. That’s why the most important qualification is your personality: who you are, what values you have and how you interact with other people. We are looking for people with passion and energy to be part of something bigger than themselves and who are willing to dedicate their time and skills towards building great products and services in collaboration with talented and friendly colleagues.”

Talent RECRUITMENT

Recruitment. Love it or hate it, this is where it all starts if you want to attract top talent for your agency. But there’s so much more to recruitment than job postings and hiring recruiters. It’s in the recruitment phase that the first bit of onboarding starts. While it is 100% the candidate’s responsibility to find out as much as possible about the agency he wants to join, why not show your values and culture even at the earliest stages and make it easier for them?

We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us

– Simon Sinek, Author of ’’Start with Why’’

It’s no secret that even the most basic one-page websites have an “about us” section. But imagine being a top talent developer or specialist looking for new opportunities. They might go through 50 “about us” pages every day. Does your mission and vision statement stand out of the crowd? Do you communicate having a culture that provides a constant stream of challenging problems to solve? Do you have a hilarious video of your founder switching places with your human-sized-rabbit-office-mascot and shooting confetti at your unsuspecting support staff?

SQAEB TIP

Do you want to show your values to potential clients? Then video is the way to go. It doesn’t have to be a big production – the only thing it has to do, is to show your company values and culture.

Letting your mission, vision and culture shine through in your recruiting process helps you immensely in not only standing out from the crowd, but also in attracting the right people for your company.

What is top talent?

Before we start our deep dive into the obvious and not-so-obvious ways of attracting and retaining top talent, let’s take a moment to define:

What exactly is top talent?

Top talent is one of those terms that does not have a clear cut definition that people can point to. However, when talking about the agency world, there are certain characteristics that come up time and time again when discussing high performers:

Skill – The go-to metric for determining top talent. Whether it’s due to natural talent or 10,000 hours of practice, if someone is exceptionally skilled, they are on the best possible path to be considered top talent at any agency.

Ambition – The goal to become the top of their field. Ambition drives people to always keep up with the newest trends and developments in their field and continuously improve their skills.

Integrity – When they say something will get done, it gets done at all costs. And if both the managers and team members know they can count on someone when the going gets tough, that person becomes irreplaceable.

Communication – Knowing how to clearly communicate with managers and executives that speak the language of money on one side, while communicating with the technical team members who speak in code and high fidelity mockups on the other is a skill that should be paid in gold.

Teamwork – Everyone can excel at their individual tasks, but sharing a task or working efficiently in a team is a must-have for those that want to become the top performers in any agency

Creativity – Some creatives are a constant source of ideas during a brainstorming session. Some always see a problem from 3 more angles than everyone else. And while creativity manifests in a lot of ways, sometimes it’s the main thing behind a person’s top-talent status.

Leadership – Leadership is not just a skill for managers or team leads. People who join fresh out of college can find themselves at the top of the pyramid in any team within a few months, even with no direct effort. If an individual is approachable, facilitates a good workflow, or solves problems with a leveled head, they will soon become respected by their peers as a leader, even with no title involved.

Devotion – The green ’’you can talk to me’’-light next to the monitor turns red. The headphones go on.
6 hours, 3 cups of coffee, 1 missed lunch, and a single stretching session later, one individual just saved a 10-person project from being one week late. That’s how people become legends. And top talent.

Being considered top talent does not mean that a person has to have all of these qualities fully formed. It doesn’t even mean that top talent and top performers have to achieve all of these qualities eventually. A person who fully masters 3-4 of these qualities should quickly rise to become a prime asset to any agency. And if your agency finds itself hiring a person that displays most or all of these qualities, then you should do everything you can to keep them around until they decide it’s time to retire.

Tasks of a Test Manager and Tester

The activities and tasks performed by these two roles depend on the project and product context, the skills of the people in the roles, and the organization.

The test manager is tasked with overall responsibility for the test process and successful leadership of the test activities. The test management role might be performed by a professional test manager, or by a project manager, a development manager, or a quality assurance manager. In larger projects or organizations, several test teams may report to a test manager, test coach, or test coordinator, each team being headed by a test leader or lead tester.

Typical test manager tasks may include:

  •  Develop or review a test policy and test strategy for the organization
  •  Plan the test activities by considering the context, and understanding the test objectives and risks. This may include selecting test approaches, estimating test time, effort and cost, acquiring resources, defining test levels and test cycles, and planning defect management
  • Write and update the test plan(s)
  • Coordinate the test plan(s) with project managers, product owners, and others
  • Share testing perspectives with other project activities, such as integration planning
  • Initiate the analysis, design, implementation, and execution of tests, monitor test progress and results, and check the status of exit criteria (or definition of done) and facilitate test completion activities
  • Prepare and deliver test progress reports and test summary reports based on the information gathered
  • Adapt planning based on test results and progress (sometimes documented in test progress reports, and/or in test summary reports for other testing already completed on the project) and take any actions necessary for test control
  • Support setting up the defect management system and adequate configuration management of test-ware
  • Introduce suitable metrics for measuring test progress and evaluating the quality of the testing and the product
  • Support the selection and implementation of tools to support the test process, including recommending the budget for tool selection (and possibly purchase and/or support), allocating time and effort for pilot projects, and providing continuing support in the use of the tool(s)
  • Decide about the implementation of test environment(s)
  • Promote and advocate the testers, the test team, and the test profession within the organisation
  • Develop the skills and careers of testers (e.g., through training plans, performance evaluations, coaching, etc.)

The way in which the test manager role is carried out varies depending on the software development lifecycle. For example, in Agile development, some of the tasks mentioned above are handled by the Agile team, especially those tasks concerned with the day-to-day testing done within the team, often by a tester working within the team. Some of the tasks that span multiple teams or the entire organization, or that have to do with personnel management, may be done by test managers outside of the development team, who are sometimes called test coaches.

Typical tester tasks may include:

  • Review and contribute to test plans
  • Analyse, review, and assess requirements, user stories and acceptance criteria, specifications, and models for testability (i.e., the test basis)
  • Identify and document test conditions, and capture traceability between test cases, test conditions, and the test basis
  • Design, set up, and verify test environment(s), often coordinating with system administration and network management
  • Design and implement test cases and test procedures
  • Prepare and acquire test data
  • Create the detailed test execution schedule
  • Execute tests, evaluate the results, and document deviations from expected results
  • Use appropriate tools to facilitate the test process
  • Automate tests as needed (may be supported by a developer or a test automation expert)
  • Evaluate non-functional characteristics such as performance efficiency, reliability, usability,security, compatibility, and portability
  • Review tests developed by others

People who work on test analysis, test design, specific test types, or test automation may be specialists in these roles. Depending on the risks related to the product and the project, and the software development lifecycle model selected, different people may take over the role of tester at different test levels. For example, at the component testing level and the component integration testing level, the role of a tester is often done by developers. At the acceptance test level, the role of a tester is often done by business analysts, subject matter experts, and users. At the system test level and the system integration test level, the role of a tester is often done by an independent test team. At the operational acceptance test level, the role of a tester is often done by operations and/or systems administration staff.

What are the testing objectives?

What should we test in a project may very and testing objective could include:

  • Testing or evaluating work products such as requirements, user stories, design and code.
  • Validated whether the test object is done or complete and work as expected by users and stakeholders.
  • Building confidence that in the quality of the test objective.
  • Preventing errors and defects.
  • Finding defects which lead to failure’s.
  • Providing to stakeholders information to let them make informed decisions, regarding the quality of the object under test.
  • Reducing the risk of the software quality.
  • Complying to legal, or regulatory standards, and verifying that the object under test comply with those standards or requirements.

The objectives under test may very from system to system, depending the context of the component under test, the level of test, and the model of the software development lifecycle being used.