How To Keep Your Software Developers From Leaving For Greener Pastures.


Many companies are left scratching their heads after yet another senior software developer left their team for greener pastures.

Some blame the "developer-shortage," while others lament their "recruitment experience."

Still, others claim the company isn't paying them enough or giving them good enough benefits.

Yes, these are all factors that hold weight.

All it takes is a simple google search to find the symptoms of under-performing engineering environments that encourage their software developers to look for work elsewhere.

However, I believe that we should always start with a straightforward question.

What do software developers want?


They want varying levels of autonomy

In my experience working with great senior talent looking for their next opportunity, I always try to ask them what is important to them, and autonomy almost always comes up.

Now, the term autonomy can mean several different things. Such as:

1) Being able to choose your projects

2) Ability to use a wide range of tools and open source software

3) Flexibility in when and how the work is performed

4) Fewer barriers to shipping code

They want to solve difficult challenges.

Developers who are passionate about their work strongly desire to solve complicated problems.

They are similar to musicians who LOVE making music and want to see it become a smash hit on the charts.

This passion for solving challenges is one of the reasons why many companies struggle to retain senior talent after their big product launch is over.

It's just too hard for some developers to maintain their excitement around product maintenance.

These kinds of software developers are like nomads, moving between companies and startups working on exciting products.

It's just a completely different mindset.

They want to be a part of projects that impact peoples lives.

Everyone wants their life to have meaning and purpose.

Software developers are no different, and some might even want it more than the average Joe.

Many developers are driven by the satisfaction that comes from being able to say "I helped build that application."

Startups and smaller companies who have not yet gained product traction often discover this to be harmful in their recruiting and retention efforts, especially as it pertains to developers who want to be a part of something that has meaning.

Big firms have successful products with plenty of users and offer all of the bragging rights that come with it.

They want opportunities AFTER their position with you.

Working for a tech giant on a successful big name project can open up quite a few doors for an ambitious software developer.

They may not even have to seek out new opportunities anymore.

Software developers at these companies get enough spam from recruiters to completely ruin their inbox.

It is safe to conclude that eventually, they will receive an offer that is too good to pass on.

On the flip-side, it does make retention difficult for these larger players.

They want to maintain the company culture.

Just like people, companies grow and change as they age and become more mature.

The new and improved "scaled-up" version of your company may be completely unrecognizable to your original team members. It is surprisingly common to hear the words, "the company changed."

Many developers start working with a company because they loved the company culture, but once it was time to scale up, they realized entirely different motivations now drive their organization.

Uncontrollable growth can cause many companies to lose their initial culture and personality.

That desire to create a product that changes the world gets replaced by the need to have a strong IPO and create value for shareholders.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to retaining software developers is that there is no one size fits all. It is never as simple as just paying them more.

Merely throwing money at the problem could even make matters worse.

If you have developers who want more autonomy in their roles or are starting to dislike the company culture, more money will only make them stay for the short run.

The smart thing to do is talk to them, and when they give you feedback, make sure you are listening.

Azeem Marediya