How to Attract and Retain Top Developers

The demand for top software developers is fierce. But with sound strategies, employers can manage to attract and retain top tech professionals.
August 5, 2021
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In the tech industry, turnover is at 13.2 — a higher rate than any other industry. The competition for software developers is fierce, and employers also have trouble keeping the employees at their organizations, given how in-demand these professionals are. Even at top tech companies like Dropbox, employees stay for just slightly over 2 years on average.

But employers in a variety of fields need talented software developers — and they want to retain them for the long haul. So, how can they do it?

Why Is Attracting and Retaining Talent so Important?

Whether they realize it or not, the vast majority of businesses are actually tech companies. In order to build competitive products, they must have skilled software developers, employees with experience, and strong competencies in their particular industry and niche. Given the ever-changing landscape and fast-moving trends, they must also be able to keep up and help their organizations stay ahead of the curve.

When employers are unable to retain talented software developers, their businesses can suffer, too. It can be exceedingly difficult to replace them, costing the organization in terms of efficiency, productivity, and money. It can also weaken the overall company culture if turnover is frequent, while other employees could be quick to follow suit.

Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Software Developers

1. Offer Competitive Compensation Packages

We’ll start with the obvious: You must offer competitive compensation packages to software developers. These are in-demand professionals who are almost certainly fielding offers from other businesses. And while money isn’t the only consideration, it’s an important one nonetheless — one that could mean the difference between a candidate accepting an offer or not.

But salary isn’t the only part of a compensation package to consider. Many startups and other tech businesses offer equity, a portion of the company’s stock options or shares. This can be enticing when offered by up-and-coming organizations.

2. Hone Your Recruitment and Hiring Process

Your recruitment process is what will land you the top talent among software developers, and it requires careful planning, honing, and refreshing. Start with your job posting. While you should, of course, optimize it with important keywords, this is only part of the process. You also need to motivate software developers to apply by being specific and describing the values your organization has and the opportunities they will have.

During the interview stage, assess both technical and soft skills. This might be accomplished by conducting interviews with both your software team and other members of the organization. Many organizations also ask candidates to perform coding tests to further evaluate their skills.

3. Appeal to Your Candidate’s Personal Values

Sure, money is appealing, but many software developers want more — they want to know they’re building software for a purpose. In order to appeal to their personal values, convey the mission of your organization to candidates. If they agree with it and feel passionate about the same causes, then it’s highly possible that they might even be willing to sacrifice compensation in order to work with you and your organization. 

4. Provide Opportunities for Creativity

Software development is a technical process, but it’s about far more than building products. Many developers want the opportunity to express their creativity, too. In order to effectively attract and retain the best talent available, make candidates aware that they will be able to stretch their creative muscles by trying new things, such as tools, types of products, and methods of development.

Along with creativity comes the need for challenges. Even the best developers in the world should have responsibilities that challenge and stretch them.

5. Establish a Strong Company Culture

Create a workplace where people actually want to work. This is a definite factor in drawing great developers in and keeping them there. They want to feel welcomed and comfortable. Part of building a strong company culture involves offering employees incentives — even little perks like snacks. But it goes beyond that, and it can even pervade a remote work environment

For example, you might have informal check-ins to give people a chance to get to know one another and touch base. You can also implement bonding activities to support collaboration.

6. Offer Ample Training and Resources

Yes, you’re hiring software engineers who are knowledgeable and already great at their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they know everything there is to know. In order to make them feel comfortable and get them onboarded quickly, offer plenty of guidance, including training on workplace goals and procedures. 

Moreover, readily give them access to the resources they need to do their jobs well. If they request certain tools, do your best to be accommodating.

7. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Autonomy

Again, while these developers are at the top of their field, there’s always room to grow. Make space for plenty of growth at your organization. Not everyone can be the CTO, of course, but you should do your best to support people in their careers. If they don’t find those opportunities with you, they will go looking elsewhere. You can support growth in multiple respects, such as offering courses or education reimbursements on on-site classes.

Remember, too, that no one likes to be micromanaged, much less talented software engineers. Afford your talented team plenty of autonomy, treating them as partners in the process, not underlings. 

8. Learn How to Recognize Top Talent

As you gain experience hiring software developers, you’ll gradually become more adept at spotting top talent. While you’re still getting the hang of it, pay attention to qualities such as:

  • A passion for software development
  • Strong attention to detail
  • An ability to connect their work with the overarching mission and goals of the organization
  • Prioritization
  • Communication and listening skills

In other words, great software developers don’t just possess strong programming skills — they must also be able to work well with others, support their teams, and maintain strong morale.

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