How to Reduce Turnover in Your Developer Department

Summary: Great developers are hard to come by and even harder to retain. Use learning, collaboration and good old fashioned programming to keep these hard-working employees where they are.


Software development is one of the fastest growing professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A fact that’s confirmed by the 2019 CIO Survey, which found that 47 percent of companies plan to increase their tech headcount and 49 percent plan to increase their IT budget over the next year.

While developers are in demand, once hired, your job is to not only optimize and support that talent, but retain the developers you’ve hired, which may be harder than it sounds. LinkedIn reports that the technology sector saw the highest turnover rates in 2017. What’s worse, that turnover is expensive. The Work Institute estimates that replacing an employee costs a company 33 percent of their annual salary. If you take the US News national average of $101,000 for a developer salary, losing—and re-hiring—a single development employee can cost your company roughly $33,600.

If you want to save yourself the expense of developer turnover, consider the many tactics you can use to retain these employees.


Provide Structured Training and Unstructured Learning

The Developer Learning Survey Report found that, on average, developers spend seven hours per week devoted to learning new skills. However, this “learn-on-your-own” approach leads to employees using company time for non-work related learning and can cost upwards of $18,750 per employee, per year.

To feed their need for learning, start allocating dedicated time for both structured training and unstructured learning. For unstructured learning, look to global organizations like Google, who give employees 20 percent free-time to work on projects. If you’re worried about the cost and resources, Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, tells Inc. that you can make this learning format work for your company, regardless of budget:

“You don’t have to have Google’s resources to implement side projects. In January of this year, we devoted about eight company hours to side project [learning], and we’ve already seen the benefits of the solutions and camaraderie that came out of it.”

Robinson continues to explain that their side-project learning activities focused on collaboration: “We made our teams are intentionally cross-functional, we end up with ideas that never would have come about in a typical workday environment.” This makes it possible for you to focus on both employee and company development at the same time.

Take your in-house learning a step further by combining side project programs with structured training directly related to upcoming projects and industry changes. This may appeal to your employees even more, as Develop Intelligence found that developers prefer instructor and peer-lead training in a classroom setting.


Allow for Flexible Work

Developers want the option to work flex-hours and telecommute, according to Stackoverflow’s 2018 Developer Survey. Stackoverflow found that remote work options were one of the top five factors when developers assess potential jobs, while another survey by Key Values found that work-life balance was the number one tag selected by job-hunting developers, closely followed by flexible work arrangements and remote-options.

For more specifics on desired flexibility, Hackerrank breaks down what work-life balance means in their 2018 Developer Skills Report:

  • Offer flexible work hours
  • Have remote working options
  • Focus on outcomes, not hours
  • Encourage vacation time


Make More Time for Programming 

While it might seem simple, developers want to do what they do best: program and code. ActiveState’s 2019 Developer Survey found that 62 percent of developers spend only two to four hours programming daily, which represents a 20 percent decrease in overall programming time from the previous year. What’s taking away from this core job function? A multitude of activities, including meetings, software architecture, and testing.

Brandon Vigliarolo explains why this is an issue to TechRepublic. “The decrease in time available to developers to do what they specialize in [occurs] despite the push for more responsive project management strategies.” Vigliarolo continues: “Developers are pulled in multiple directions and simply don’t have the time to build as much code as they should.”

Avoid creating a hectic workplace for your development team by allowing them to focus on what they do best—program. Put processes and plans in place, and rely on support, admin, and management staff to handle project management.


Engage Your Developers to Retain Talent

Contrary to popular belief, your tech talent isn’t going to stay with your company because of snacks in the kitchen or ping-pong tables. Developers want to work in collaborative environments where they can solve problems with creative programming on their own terms. Use these tactics to engage your developers and retain their talent for years to come.



Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and FastCompany. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.



About the Author


Hi All, I'm Nicola and I am part of the EuroSTAR team. I enjoy outdoor activities and martial arts, it's fun! I joined EuroSTAR in 2018 and am excited to meet new people every year during the conferences. Tester Friends are for life :)
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