Retaining Top Software Talent

The average tenure for a software developer ranges between 0.6 years and 1.8 years depending on their specialisms, but consistently they are all in very high demand. Now more than ever, software developers are fundamental to driving digital transformation and change across businesses, which means that hiring and retaining talented software engineers can be extremely challenging due to the fierce competition for talent. This means even when you have fought to hire top developer talent, the work doesn’t stop there. Now you need to continuously work towards creating a rewarding, fulfilling employment experience that keeps developers at your company.

So, how do you create an attractive, fulfilling, and exciting business environment that will retain top developer talent? As I mentioned before, it starts with hiring, but it doesn’t stop after you have onboarded. Below I take a look at some of the key aspects of retaining top software developers.

Understand the Market

Having a great overview of the current market is hugely beneficial. And that means more than just knowing what your competitors are doing and what they are offering in terms of employment packages. It’s about what is important to developers right now.

Your hiring team should know what technologies developers are loving, current discussions around Kubernetes, attitudes to flexibility and so on. They need to know what makes those developers tick! Whilst knowing about your competitors is always a primary focus (and should be), it’s also important to focus on your developers needs and wants, especially with things such as tech opportunities, progression, salary benchmarking, and benefits. Knowing these things will allow you to tailor employment offers to suit the top talent you want to hire and retain.

Low-Code vs Pro-Code Platforms and Talent Retention

Low code platforms have increasingly become a go-to favourite option for business leaders because they enable non-technical people to build their own apps and websites using simple drag and drop functionality. However, businesses can’t survive on this for long, especially not in such a heavily innovative and digital age. It is inevitable that sooner or later, these businesses will need to hire software developers to elevate their product.

This is where the problem arises. Most software developers do not want to work on low-code platforms because of the lack of customisation and functional options available to them. Essentially the pre-built templates, simplicity, and limitations of these low-code platforms are boring to them and can’t make use of their expertise.

On the other hand, software developers love Pro-Code platforms, but these come with their own challenges. Namely, they make large projects timely and often require large teams of developers. Most of the time businesses can’t afford to spend this much time on an update or release if they want to remain competitive. So, they need to find a balance.

The solution? Find an app development platform that allows professional software engineers to write code and use cutting-edge technologies — while still dramatically improving the speed and productivity of development. This allows you to build and launch apps faster and at a reduced cost, whilst still attracting and retaining top tech talent by offering challenging and rewarding work.

Cutting Edge Technology

Software Developers, like any employee, want to be excited and invested in their work. A big part of this is getting the chance to work on cutting edge technology and using new tooling which helps them elevate their own efficiency and quality of work. Software Developers typically enjoy trying out the latest and greatest technology, because it helps them keep up to date with their peers in the software market, whilst also improving efficiencies around their way of working. Software frameworks are constantly evolving, and developers who feel stuck using antiquated tooling are most likely to move to companies who focus more on innovation and technology.

Challenging and Rewarding Work

As mentioned previously in relation to Low-Code apps, software developers want to be interested and engaged in what they are doing. If work is repetitive and simple, many developers are likely to become bored and therefore open to new, more exciting opportunities.

To provide software developers with ambitious and engaging work, leaders need to understand the personal and professional goals and targets of their developers. Having quarterly goal-setting meetings and reviews is a great way to make sure developers are satisfied and fulfilled in their work and to see how you can support them. It also gives you the opportunity to see where you can enable them to use new types of technology in their work.

A big factor in retaining developers it to make sure they are not working on really basic tasks that anyone can do all the time. Leave low-code development to “citizen developers” and let your software developers work on what they are employed for: developing more complex and ambitious apps that are usually of higher value to your organisation and that typically give your business the competitive advantage.

Software Developers typically want to embark on work that they find challenging, rewarding and meaningful, in that it contributes to overall business growth whilst enabling personal and professional development. As leaders, you need to offer them this as much as possible.

Career Progression

As with many professions, most Software Developers have career goals which include a level of progression. Research from LinkedIn found that 59% of tech talent joined their companies in the hopes of building a stronger career path, and 45% left their company because of a lack of those opportunities. Therefore, this is a critical aspect of both hiring and retaining top developer talent.

Progression will mean different things to different people. Not every Developer will want to advance into a leadership position, but for those developers it is likely they would like to improve and progress in certain technical spaces. This includes gaining new certifications and even formal academic programs.

There are a number of ways that companies can enable career progression within their development teams, regardless of their personal goals, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Hire Junior Developers and invest in their training
  • Set up mentoring programs where Juniors can learn from Seniors
  • Sponsor employee attendance at conferences and networking events
  • Allow free time for studying, learning, or creative side projects
  • Sponsor access to leadership and development courses
  • Sponsor/part fund/allocate time for attendance on university courses or formal certification classes

Have a clear and transparent career pathway structure so staff know what they are aiming for

Knowledge is an extremely important driver for software developers, regardless of their growth direction or trajectory. Do all you can to empower and enable their growth and development.

Communication, Transparency & Trust

Build a culture of trust where Software Developers feel comfortable going to leaders and speaking honestly about challenges, problems, and feedback (the good and the bad!) Having a culture of trust enables great cohesion and collaboration, which is critical in the development space. To support this, consistent communications, on a team basis and a one-to-one basis, is fundamental.

Team meetings are important for cohesion, work efficiency, and team morale. All the members in a team should be updated periodically about objectives, corporate situations that affect them, strategies, changes in the organization and, last but not least, team achievements. Frequent team meetings are great for this.

One-to-one meetings are great opportunities to discuss personal goals and development, as well as any issues that the developer might be experiencing. Creating a culture of trust and psychological safety empowers developers to comfortably come to you with issues, whether job-related, technical-situations, or personal-life, so that you can resolve them together.

Creating open communication between employees and management can help foster a sense of community and a shared purpose. Be approachable, be honest about your own mistakes, welcome team ideas, and always be transparent. Regular meetings in which employees can offer ideas and ask questions as well as “open-door policies” that encourage employees to speak frankly with their managers help employees feel they are valued and that their input will be heard. Developers are more likely to stay with companies who keep them engaged and communicate honestly and transparently.

The Right Salary and the Right Benefits

Always pay your developers what they are worth. This has become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, where redundancies have led many companies to the belief that they can offer lower salaries to top tech talent. Underpaying staff is the fastest way to make them feel unvalued and is one of the biggest push factors for developers leaving a company. Paying them the right wage is a great way to start and making sure there is clear payment structures in place to enable growth and progression is key. But it doesn’t start and end with salary…

An easy way to set you apart from competition, other than the above, is to offer an attractive benefits package with your role. It’s not enough now to just offer paid sick leave and a competitive salary. Candidates now expect more, such as flexible and remote working options, healthcare insurance, bonus, and stock options amongst others.

It’s important to understand what is important to your target audience and to accommodate this where possible, in addition to a good salary, to attract, engage and retain the top tech talent.


Whilst salary is important, it is equally important to create a culture which values communication, growth, progression, and excitement which keeps software developers engaged, motivated, fulfilled, and satisfied. I’d love to hear from my network of developers and software specialists about what they value in a role and from those in leadership positions about what they do to retain their development teams. Drop a comment below or message me directly!

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