How to retain the best Software Engineers in your team


Employee turnover is a natural occurrence within businesses but too much of it will prove to be detrimental. This is why companies are always conducting exit interviews to try and reduce the attrition rate; if only they would act on the feedback they receive.

Now you might be a manager or HR personnel trying to find answers to this question, or you could even be a Software Engineer trying to figure out why you feel like leaving this job that you used to be in love with. 

Though Software Engineers are among the most highly paid professionals, some companies still face a high turnover rate, and this shows that money isn’t the only factor that comes into play when keeping your best employees; job satisfaction is a key metric as well.

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Retaining Software Engineers is crucial especially when the industry is facing a talent crunch.

Let’s dive into what can be done to retain the best Software Engineers in your organization.

What do Software Developers want?

In a nutshell, Developers crave meaningful challenges, a flexible work-life balance, tools and processes that don’t slow them down, and, increasingly, the option to work completely remotely.

So what can you do to retain your best developers? Here’s our best advice. 

Understand what your Software Engineers want

“Of all the tech roles, developers are the most fickle,” says GitLab’s staff developer evangelist Brendan O’Leary, who, with nearly 20 years experience as a developer, is in a good position to know. “They don’t want to put up with a lot and tend to have strong opinions.”

This means that you should listen to their feedback and most importantly, act on it. Engineers are human after all and sometimes, all we really want is to be heard.

Let your engineers know that you value their input, and act on it to show that their feedback is important to the organization.

Stop measuring time spent at work

Amongst other things, the Pandemic has shown us that most jobs CAN be done remotely. This should signal a change in the way organizations view employee productivity as well. 

How about tying developer productivity to results instead of a mandatory 40-hour work week? Do engineers really need to be in the office from 9am - 6pm to get their work done? Or can it be done at the comfort of their own homes, with a setup that they’re most comfortable with?

“Companies need to stop measuring knowledge workers, like developers, by the hours they spend,” O'Leary says. “That’s the worst thing you could do.” Instead, build a culture that values paid time-off, family leave, and other work-life balance efforts because those will resonate with developers, he stresses.

Embrace flexible work arrangements for Software Engineers

Two years into the Pandemic, the time is now right for companies to be deliberate about their choices. Developers are going to choose employers who have thought through all the options, whether it’s fully remote, remote with flexibility, or other combinations. 

But they’re not going to settle for companies trying to patchwork it without a solid plan. “Not every company is losing developers,” O'Leary says. “Developers are going to places that understand the benefits that can come from remote work, while also not sacrificing any productivity.”

To add another example, Shopify has been open about their work culture, which does not have any stated work hours. Developers are allowed to work whichever time they want whenever they feel most productive.

What’s important is to have a high trust environment, where you have the confidence that your colleague/employees will pull through when needed, and that you can depend on them.

Reskill your Software Engineers 

You’ve got unfilled roles and your DevOps team members itching for a change. Why not marry the two? A survey from the McKinsey Quarterly discovered 53% of executive respondents felt reskilling was the best solution to the skills gap. 

Be different and offer solid learning paths for your employees, as well as tuition reimbursement. At the very least, offer your DevOps team time for DIY learning, as needed. Also consider job swapping, which can be a great way to expose employees to new career opportunities.

Software Engineers need to feel that they have the right opportunities to learn new skills and grow. Enrich their time with your company and give them the chance to upgrade themselves.

Streamline your code development process

Developers that are drowning in information overload will not be productive, which ties directly into job satisfaction and happiness. 

In a 2021 Global DevSecOps Survey done by GitLab, they found out about tool chains with between five and 15 tools on them, and often there wasn’t just one tool chain in play, but several. That’s a lot of noise. 

A DevOps platform streamlines code development, testing, deployment, and monitoring and definitely improves a company’s ability to successfully do DevOps. 

In other words, make sure that your company has the right tools to ensure organizational success. 

This article was written in collaboration with Valerie Silverthorne, Managing Editor, GitLab

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