In today’s job market, it’s rare for a developer to stay with an employer for more than 2 years. According to Recruiting Developers in 2015, 65% of developers across the globe are open to new job opportunities. This means that roughly two-thirds of your software development team could be discussing new opportunities right now - possibily with your competitors.

With such fierce competition for talent, retaining your software developers has never been more critical. Today we're going to share with you some tips on how to reduce turnover in the development team specifically, but this model could improve retention in any part of the business.

Why do the best developers leave?

I can’t speak from personal experience, but fortunately quite a few developers and tech bloggers - such as Bruce Webster, Alex Papadimoulis, Bruno Marnette, Michael Lopp and Erik Dietrich - have written about the subject. Some of the most common reasons include:

  •  Being stuck on the same project, code or dataset for too long
  •  Feeling that current project is futile or bound to fail and believing senior management is unable or refusing to  stop it
  •  No longer feeling challenged or creatively fulfilled by code-based work
  •  Fear of being pigeon-holed into unmarketable technology
  •  Frustration with micromanaging and red-tape bureaucracy 
  •  Promotions awarded for time rather than merit
  •  Lack of a mentor or opportunity for learning and development
  •  Feeling isolated from the rest of the business

In a nutshell, developers are more likely to look for a new job if they are bored, disengaged, and frustrated with the work culture and internal processes. How can you prevent these feelings from reaching the tipping point?

Take boredom seriously

Sometimes there are boring tasks that just have to be done, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't take boredom seriously. Building a strategy to minimise boredom could really enhance your culture and improve retention, particularly for your developers. Bruno Marnette, Co-founder and CTO of Enki, offered some practical tips on how to achieve this in a recent blog post. These include:

  •  Nobody works on the same code, product or dataset for more than 3 months
  •  Weekly open discussions
  •  Strong bias for open source technologies
  •  Using microservices or other strategies to facilitate or support code maintenance 
  •  Recruiting diverse teams
  •  Going to meetups and hackathons together

Of course, every development team in every business is different so it's important to understand the specific frustrations and desires within the development team before developing and implementing your strategy. Encourage your developers to speak openly with you and share any ideas they may have, and be completely transparent with them in return. This will not only build trust, engagement and honesty, but it will help you create a strategy against boredom that actually works.

Create a work culture that's hard to leave

Time to be really honest with yourself. Think about at all the people who have left the company in the last year: what really motivated them to leave? More often than not people start looking for a new job when the work culture is failing to keep them happy, engaged and motivated. Imagine what would happen if you had a culture that nobody would want to leave? 

In my opinion, success in employee retention rests on one thing: a sense of purpose. A shared sense of purpose creates a powerful synergy that can dramatically increase loyalty, focus and productivity. It is therefore crucial that all employees are bought into the vision of the company and understand the overarching strategy to achieve the businesses short, medium and long term goals. Regular company meetings isn't enough; you need to think about your internal communcations strategy as a marketer. What are your key messages? What stories can you use to boost motivation? How can you use internal communications to make people feel valued? What tools can your business use to facilitate better communication between employees? 

Employers also need to be aware of their employee's personal goals and consider how these to be pursued whilst supporting business growth. If you know what your developer wants to achieve in 5 years, you have a better chance of keeping them for 5 years. All you have to do is create opportunities for them to achieve those personal goals at work. 

Finally, as Alex Papadimoulis explains in "Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis," a work culture will become more cohesive if we simply accept that an employee is eventually going to hand in their notice, and that's OK. The goal is for both sides to add as much value to the other as possible during that person's employment so that when they do hand in their notice, you know it's for the right reasons.

And if this strategy works well for your developer team, why not try it out on the rest of the business? 

You may also like

The Rise and Fall of Digital Skeuomorphism

2015 Developer Survey: A Summary And Analysis

The Death and Re-birth of Apps

Thinking about your next move?

As always, we're committed to helping you find your next job. Tweet any questions relating to your job search to @BurnsSheehan and check out our blog for career advice and the latest tech industry insights.