The Great Rebalance has created a visible shift in the industry and talent dynamic in the United States.
According to a recent report from Bain & Company, at a macro level the demand for technical talent is still high but is now growing within non-tech industries. Demand for tech workers at non-tech businesses outpaces demand at tech businesses, growing at a 10% quarterly growth rate since Q4 in 2020.
Attracting this talent is more important than ever amidst continued digital transformation efforts. This opens the doors for skilled developers to pivot to new sectors. How can non-tech businesses attract this talent for their purposes?
The report attributes retention of tech workers to three reasons – greater opportunity, compensation, and mobility (hybrid/remote options). But does the same apply to developers?
In truth, there are four key factors behind attracting and retaining developer talent during the Great Rebalance.
It takes two (or a whole team) to make a thing go right, and developers are no exception. Among other things, the Great Rebalance has created an environment of uncertainty and talent/labor shortage that has companies strapped for support, overwhelming employees with too many tasks.
Developers that are faced with outages and incidents on a frequent basis during on-call schedules, and no support system to address the cause, are already set up for burnout. A common repercussion of such limited support is that developers often struggle to prioritize technical debt, both internally and externally – for instance, when faced with tight new product/vendor evaluation timelines or when they require ‘zero-dollar solutions’ in open-source software.
Community support doesn’t have to be additional employees or third-party consultants. To build a community and foster teamwork in a digital world, it helps to form new channels, e.g., on Slack, online forums, conferences, meetups, and other opportunities for different departments to engage among themselves and with each other. From a more technical standpoint, engagement can be improved by using docs-as-code to allow developers to support documentation and being able to receive pull requests (PR) or issues from internal teams or third-party community members.
A Curated Experience
The past few years have highlighted the value of an enriching, personalized employee experience and flexibility for a better work-life balance. Offering developers curated experiences goes beyond basic mobility and occasional opportunity. Really, it’s about meeting developers where they’re at – giving them the tools they need to be successful, helping pave the way for developers to climb the career ladder. It includes creating Software Development Kits or SDKs, clients, code snippets, API wrappers, and more, customizing the tools to developer needs, and increasing their range of choices so that developers can, for example, craft their own tooling.
A curated experience also entails horizontal and upward mobility. In other words, developers should have the opportunity and support to grow and specialize the same as non-tech workers. Don’t leave them siloed as frontend or backend developers – give them the chance to become full-stack. If the top talent is pushing against managerial roles and more interested in specialization for growth, like in a specific coding language, then follow this thread to foster greater possibilities for developers to enjoy more organic, curated work experiences that help them engage, adapt, be flexible, and grow on mutual terms.
Adopting the latest trending technologies without proper planning is a common mistake companies make, but instead, team leaders should invest more deeply in developer experience – including challenges, areas for growth, and valuable skills. A more thoughtful strategy will help in hiring and retaining developers. Rather than posting confusing job descriptions with impossibly high expectations, employers should rely on the knowledge gained from investing in developer experiences to carry out more effective, targeted recruitment that aligns company needs with existing developer skills.
To avoid the pitfall of tight budgets and hiring freezes, development teams should invest in reuse, automation, and knowledge sharing for greater efficiency and flexibility. This allows them to scale up or down with budgets, teams, and tech debt. Knowledge sharing works best when the team is mobile and able to rotate on tasks to retain and build skills so that no valuable information is siloed – which can be a major pain point if the owner of the siloed information leaves.
In the same vein, rather than investing in new technologies, leaders should first identify how they can leverage, reuse, and boost their existing resources at hand. Take, for example, low-code. Low-code tools allow a broader range of technical skills to build config-only or reusable assets. This embraces flexibility and scalability without requiring a new programmatic solution every time. Developers often look for ways to reuse or extend existing codebases, allowing them to work on more interesting or unique problems while still providing the business an extensible solution to meet their needs.
As technology and customer expectations continue to evolve, companies often find their automation tools siloed for certain solutions, unable to keep up, or overcomplicated by too many endpoints that lead to bottlenecks. Developers are unlikely to stay and grow in an environment that siloes or relegates them away from the arching mission. In such cases, it may be necessary to look beyond existing resources and seek out modern tool sets that can orchestrate diverse endpoints, handle complex process logic, and scale to meet performance requirements. In doing so, employees are more comfortable operating in interactive settings and team leaders can flexibly break down silos, integrate any technology, and keep improving critical business processes to stay ahead of change.
Part of a healthier and more enriching work experience for employees, including developers, involves creating a space of transparency and open communication across the organizational structure. This goes beyond one-on-ones with managers to ensure they are heard, although that is always recommended. In a volatile hiring environment, employers should be open and transparent about where the organization stands – like having no budget for a new platform – and any potential changes to be expected, such as mergers and hiring freezes.
We’ve talked about community support. Developers need a space where they can provide feedback that is acknowledged, be it from a customer or internal team perspective. By facilitating communication on product features, internal processes, etc., will help developer employees feel visible and valuable, creating incentive for them to continue engaging and growing where they are allowed to bloom.
We are living in an era of digital transformation, where emerging technologies are being adopted at accelerating rates across industries. Not everyone has the required skills to help them keep pace with the tech evolution, but industries are becoming increasingly aware of the need for tech talent to stay ahead of the game. As the Bain & Company report found, demand remains high for critical skills in cloud computing, AI/ML, cybersecurity, and data science, to name a few. Even in non-tech roles, developers can bring these skills (and more) to the table, helping their employers stay in the tech race and even charge ahead. But no amount of charging ahead will matter if the employer leaves the developer behind. By investing in the developer experience, providing platforms of support and knowledge sharing, communication, and career opportunities, non-technical businesses will be able to retain top talent for optimal development.