Three Keys to Retaining Top Developer Talent

For companies that are in dire need of software engineers, trying to find talent can be like dousing a four-alarm fire—they need top developers, and they need them now. Recent statistics underscore this sense of urgency. Dice.com, for example, lists about 7,000 available software engineer jobs on any given day, while a survey by Nova Workforce found that 77 percent of companies in Silicon Valley have difficulty finding and hiring qualified tech employees.

In the war for developer talent however, hiring is only half the battle. It’s what comes next—keeping your developer team engaged and satisfied—that matters far more than a signed offer letter. The long-term growth and success of your company depend not only on attracting top software engineers, but on keeping them around for years to come.

Faced with such fierce competition, companies need to create an environment where software engineers can truly thrive. Gym memberships, fancy game rooms, and other perks are nice, but they can only go so far, especially when just about every tech company now offers them. For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to help build just such an environment as an engineering team leader at AppDirect, the leading cloud service marketplace company. In that time, we’ve seen our team grow by leaps and bounds; better yet, we’ve been successful in retaining top talent. Here are three tips that have helped us do it, and can help you too.

1. Know what makes your team tick. When a new developer joins your team, you already know about their professional accomplishments and where they went to school. Be sure to dig a little deeper and find out how they work best and what really drives their passion. Keep a close eye on code quality with code reviews—if a developer is getting frustrated by interruptions or long meetings, you’re more likely to see buggy or inconsistent code. To remedy this, find out if your team is interested in banning all meetings one day a week. Another developer, on the other hand, may need more frequent feedback and guidance to get in the zone. Understanding individual work styles will help increase productivity in the long run.

2. Be an inspirational coach. Whether it’s in sports or businesses, every strong team has one thing in common—a good coach. As a team lead, it’s your job to interpret your company’s vision and coach your team to work toward those larger goals. If this sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be; taking advantage of any communication opportunity can help reignite enthusiasm and keep your vision front and center. Reiterating your vision as it applies to a specific project during development, making time on a quarterly basis to talk about big milestones, or simply mentioning some bigger goals you’re excited about during the course of the day are all concrete steps you can take to accomplish this. You’ll know you’re successful when you see team members taking ownership and redefining the company vision for themselves, and applying it to their everyday work.

3. Encourage change and avoid burnout. For developers, long hours combined with tight deadlines—not to mention potentially tedious projects—are a recipe for burnout. To counter this, encourage your team to come up for air and put time into a creative side project. Not only will your team be happier with more breathing room, but you’ll also give them a chance to take a step back and appreciate how much they have accomplished. New projects can spark creativity, and a change of scenery can also work wonders. Be sure your team has access to creative space and the freedom to find what works best for them.

These may seem simple, but a surprising number of companies fail to take even the most basic steps to keep their developer teams happy. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to creating a top-notch corps of software engineers who are performing at their best.

About the Author 

Mary Becica is Lead Product Designer at AppDirect, where she is a juggler of all things product, user experience design, and front-end engineering. In this role, she designs and implements features, leads the growth of AppDirect’s UI design/engineering team, and guides the overall growth and direction of the product. Prior to AppDirect, Mary worked for several design and architecture firms. To keep up with AppDirect’s latest news, visit blog.appdirect.com.