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How To Attract Developers and Retain Those You Already Have

Here, when I say "developer", I'm really referring to anyone who writes software or builds products. So that could be a developer, analyst, tester, designer, or architect, etc.
The rapid expansion in technology and the growth in startups and scaleups, turbo charged by Covid and venture capital investment, has created a huge demand for developers. In the UK there were more than two million job vacancies in the tech industry between May 2021 and May 2022, which is more than in any other sector.
Keeping hold of talent is also a challenge. A survey of 65,000 developers found that almost 75% of developers are actively looking for a job or open to new opportunities. The intense competition between UK technology companies has increased to the point of  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56479304 ‘poaching’ employed developers with the lure of an ever-higher salary.
So, what can be done to attract developers and retain those you already have?
What do developers want?
They want to be able to sit in their dark basements all day coding away in their pyjamas while eating pizza and drinking Mountain Dew. They want a place where they can be left alone to do their work and not be bothered by things like human interaction or sunlight.
But seriously,
Unsurprisingly, salary and compensation tops the list.

Competitive Pay

On average, tech salaries are nearly 80% higher than salaries for non tech jobs in the UK, at £62,000 compared to £35,000 as of Q1 2022. Specialist staff such as IT systems architects continue to be able to command high salaries with the average advertised wage for these roles being £93,000.
Often developers just quit because they can make more money elsewhere. If you value your developers, pay them competitive salaries that keep in line with market rates. Easy.
While salary is the biggest consideration, if the developer is choosing between one job over another with similar salaries then the top priorities are
  • work-life balance
  • flexibility
  • being productive
  • growth opportunities

Work-Life Balance

With 83% of software engineers reporting burnout and 25% of developers working overtime 1-2 days per week or more, a workplace that provides flexibility for home and work life is one the the top priorities outside of salaries.
So, if you're a company that demands long hours, has unrealistic expectations and unclear goals and targets, you're probably at the back of the queue of companies vying for good developers.

Flex Time and Remote Working

The same goes if you're a company that will force your developers to work in an office and adhere to specific working hours. Offering flexibility and remote working options can be the deciding factor for those when evaluating opportunities - 56% of developers said they do not want to be tied to specific working hours, and 50% said they find companies unappealing if required to go into an office.

Productivity

Developers want to feel and be productive. Software development needs uninterrupted time to create, test, fix and get code working. Interruptions are a productivity killer. Meetings - and it's not just meetings - it's your boss or co-workers coming to talk to you - it's also email, Slack messages, phone calls, and other distractions. Look, I get it. Company meetings are a necessary evil. You want to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page but does there have to be so many meetings? Can you cut down on the number of meetings, or at least can you make them shorter? You might have a happier and more productive development team as a result.

Growth Opportunities

Developers want to learn new skills and work with new technologies. Around 75% of developers are learning a new technology at least every year - and 37% learn something new every few months. Every few months! How amazing is that? You really have to admire their commitment to their career. Providing ongoing educational and training opportunities will attract developers wanting to remain at the top of their game.

Developer Experience

Over half of developers want a developer-first culture to be prioritised at work - from the hiring experience right through to the workplace environment and culture.

Hiring

Interview Process
Candidates want a structured, realistic, job-focused interview.
Aside from getting another offer (36%), other top reasons developers pull out of an interview process include a disorganised interview process (24%) and odd interview questions (24%).
Nothing causes interview fatigue quicker than expecting a candidate to go through 4 rounds of interviews and a 10 hour test task. It's no wonder that so many developers pull out of the interview process. I mean, who would want to go through all of that when they could be doing something much more enjoyable, like coding?
An ideal process could look like this: How to Screen Developers
Odd Interview Questions
Wanting to know which animal best describes a candidate's personality, may test the candidate’s ability to answer weird questions but is worse than useless for assessing the job specific skills.
Over the years, recruitment has become more refined and evolved but there’s one trend that’s been around for a while: 'culture fit'. Instead of looking for what culture fit should mean—alignment to a company’s core values—hiring managers tend to consider whether they’d like to hang out with a candidate outside of work. The so-called 'beer test' has become a popular step in the interview process. Of course, we all want to bring on board those candidates who are likeable and easy to work with, but whether a candidate is a suitable drinking buddy for the team they are joining isn't, and shouldn't be, a factor. Do you really need to be able to go for a beer with your colleagues in order to have a productive and effective working relationship?
Maybe culture fit isn't all it's cracked up to be. Could it be that "culture fit" is just a cover for discrimination and a lack of diversity in your organisation! Nah, that couldn't be it.
There are a few other reasons why developers might pull out of an interview process
  • They've been ghosted. Being ghosted by a company is pretty much the developers' equivalent of being stood up on a date. It's rude, it's unprofessional, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Particularly if they've spent their valuable time completing a technical task.
  • Your company is slow and old school or has a long line of decision makers to satisfy before the go ahead is okayed. While the wait might be worth it, not many developers want to hang around to experience the joy of working for a company that moves at a snail's pace!
  • They don’t like the tech stack they’d be using
  • They have an inkling that the company culture sucks

Developer-first culture

A developer-first culture is one where the company understands that its developers are its most important asset and treats them accordingly:
  1. Where they feel valued and respected by their colleagues and management.
  1. A blame free culture, where they feel comfortable openly sharing ideas and admitting mistakes (and learning from them).
  1. Where they're trusted to do their job and not micromanaged.
  1. Where they're given enough time to do their job properly and given the tools and resources they need to be successful.

Well, it turns out that developers are just like any other group of people - they want to be treated like human beings! They want to feel respected, valued, and appreciated. They want to work on interesting projects that present challenges and allow them to learn new things. They want to be able to work flexible hours, from home if possible. And they want good pay, of course. So, if you want to attract and retain developers, treat them like human beings! Provide interesting work, flexible hours, and good pay. Easy, right?
And if they aren’t finding it in their current role, they are going to look elsewhere. With the UK seeing over 30,000 technical roles open on any given day and around 750 new job adverts for software developers going live every day - equating to around one new tech job every two minutes - we don’t see the demand for top talent dampening down anytime soon.
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Annie Garland

Written by

Annie Garland

Co-Founder & Finance Director here at Lunem