Filling in the Gap: What the Great Resignation Means for Software

Tech resignations increased by 4.5% in one year. While every industry is seeing turnover during the Great Resignation, software faces particular problems—and leaders must take action.
April 20, 2022
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In January 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that a record 4.5 million Americans had quit their jobs. The Great Resignation is certainly in full swing, with individuals all around the world seeking out new opportunities or even changing careers entirely.

While practically every industry is seeing high turnover, this phenomenon is affecting some fields more than others, including tech and healthcare, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review. In tech, resignations had increased by 4.5% in just one year.

It’s obvious that employers need to do something to keep their software developers around. What steps can they take to ensure that their workers are content?

What’s Driving the Great Resignation?

According to NPR’s Planet Money, “Most Americans quitting their jobs merely seem to be aiming to get better jobs.” This suggests that limitless opportunities are paving the way for employees to upgrade across industries. 

But that’s not all that’s leading people to quit. During the pandemic, many of us struggled — there were furloughs and layoffs, and there were personal difficulties, too. This caused numerous individuals to question their careers and values in general. Some experienced burnout and anxiety. Now, they are considering career pivots.

Others still wonder if full-time work is the best path for them. Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey found that the percentage of developers who were independent contractors, freelancers, or self-employed workers grew from 9.5% in 2020 to 11.2% the following year.

How Tech Leaders Can Retain Top Talent

1. Identify the Cause

If you’re experiencing high turnover at your organization, your first step is to figure out what’s going wrong. Gather intel on your employees’ feelings about your company and their needs in terms of work and their personal lives. 

You might, for example, deploy anonymous surveys to get a better handle on your employees’ needs and wants. Ask specific questions, broaching topics like benefits and incentives, diversity and inclusion efforts, work styles, the nature of their work, and what you, as a leader, can do to improve their lives.

Use your own power of observation and that of other leaders at your organization to assess the problem, too. Are you responsive when employees come to you with feedback or complaints? How pervasive is your retention problem? Is it concentrated in your development team, or are other workers seeming to be dissatisfied, too?

2. Use that Data

Exploring the roots of the problem will allow you to gather data. And once you have that information, you can use it to improve your retention efforts.

Consider not only the data you’ve collected from employees but also metrics like:

  • Compensation for developers at different levels
  • Benefits in addition to salaries
  • Training and upskilling opportunities you provide
  • The number of promotions and the average time between them
  • Larger industry trends and goings-on

A data-based strategy will allow you to create a more comprehensive picture of the kinds of initiatives and programming you can implement to encourage employees to stay at your organization. 

3. Offer the Best Tools

Asking software developers to use outdated technologies and tools is, in many ways, a sign of disrespect. How can you expect them to do their best work with faulty resources? You’re not only wasting their time — forcing them to spend too long on tasks that should take a fraction of that time — but also failing to empower them to do their best work.

When you fail to provide your employees with the resources they need to do their jobs, they are bound to be dissatisfied — which could prompt them to seek out an employer that seems to value them more.

Listen to your employees when they say you need specific tools in their stacks. Perhaps it’s even time for a complete software overhaul.

4. Pay Attention to Mental Health

Eight-one percent of developers say burnout has increased during the pandemic.

But this was a pervasive problem in the tech world even before COVID-19. The work is draining, the load has increased, and workers are feeling the effects. And if employers hope to retain their talent, they need to do something about it. 

As part of their retention efforts, it’s important for business leaders to understand what their employees need in terms of their mental health. Not only should they find ways of improving their developers’ work-life balance, through measures like remote work options and unlimited paid time off (PTO), but they should introduce wellness measures, demonstrating that they care about their employees’ well-being.

5. Incentivize Employees

According to Stack Overflow, 75% of developers are actively seeking out job opportunities or say they are open to new options, with 65% of these respondents saying that compensation was the main driving factor. However, 36% said they wanted better work-life balance, and 35% were seeking growth and leadership opportunities.

This suggests that incentivizing employees with perks like upskilling and growth opportunities, along with strong benefits that promote a work-life balance, will encourage them to stay loyal to your company — improving your retention rate. Of course, you can also offer them higher salaries, too!

During the Great Resignation, employers in the tech industry need to pay attention to the needs of their talent and respond accordingly. 

They can’t sit back and wait for employees to come to them with concerns — they must be proactive in understanding what developers want and need in their careers and support them in achieving their goals. They must incentivize them to commit and encourage loyalty through active initiatives, allowing both the business and its employees to succeed.

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