Developers Are Hot Property, So How Do We Attract and Retain Them?

Technology Recruitment Sydney

Inside the Developer mindset

  • I can make *a lot* more money elsewhere meaning I can finally upgrade my house and put the kids in a good school.

  • I can start my own business and take control of my projects and work hours.

  • I can find work that strongly aligns with my purpose.

  • I deserve better working conditions and work-life balance, so I can spend more quality time with family and take better care of my health and wellbeing. 

Developers are hot property for organisations right now. Everyone wants a piece. Which is why we’ve been watching developers leave stable jobs in droves, heading to the greener pastures offering almost 40% more pay than 3 years ago. 

Here’s what you need to know about the current state of developer roles in Australia for those looking to attract or retain top talent.

Increased demand has burned them out

In our personal lives, many of us turned to tech to keep us connected and informed when the pandemic first set in. But professionally, too, as entire workplaces went remote during lockdowns (and mostly stayed there), again, we turned to tech to keep us connected and informed. 

The rapid increase in software adoption and growing reliance on technology across industries has placed a high demand on developers and their lucrative skillsets. But for some, the demand has been so high (in some cases, without the reward and recognition to match) that underappreciated and overwhelmed developers have burned out.

Shifting values and perspectives

Let’s also mention this whole pandemic experience has put us under a lot of pressure and stress personally, leading many people to reconsider how they see and value work, and even reassess their life goals and personal values. 

For in-demand talent like developers who can work from anywhere, there’s a decent internet connection, which could be quite freeing.

Developers are reinventing the way they work

It’s been an industry-wide trend that many of the people who quit their jobs over the last two years have done so to become self-employed freelancers, consultants, or entrepreneurs. You might say people are tired of bureaucracy, long commutes, and unfair working conditions – they want to take control of their career and life. 

One survey found that fewer professional developers were employed full-time in 2021, and the percentage of professional developers who were independent contractors, freelancers, or self-employed rose from 9.5% in 2020 to 11.2% in 2021.

Additionally, given the innovative nature of software development, developers can be likened to Gen Z’s entrepreneurial way of working, in that they are true multi-taskers that know the tech and know their own boundaries.

Money matters, but it’s not everything

While more money is sitting on the table, it isn’t necessarily the only selling point inspiring developers to change jobs. It could just be that they want to be better taken care of (burned out, remember?).

Additionally, based on an analysis of employment data from over 50,000 workers, Tambe et al. found that IT employees accept a "compensating differential," such as trading pay for other job attributes when they can work with novel and emerging IT systems and develop their skills on the job.

An industry focus on pedigree over skills

There’s long been a heavy focus on prestigious university qualifications over practical skills and experiences. However, a 2020 Universities Australia study shows that only 32.3% of university graduates undertaking Information Technology degrees participated in work-integrated learning. In the same year, 27% of all university students said they had considered a departure from their course because of the need for paid work. 

Reductions in funding within the tertiary education sector have only contributed further to the gap between graduates with practical, on-the-job skills, and an entry-level workforce that needs significant upskilling and development.

So, what to do when there simply aren’t enough people with the right skills and experiences? Switch focus. Some organisations have taken matters into their own hands by providing alternatives to traditional education. Google and Amazon launched their own learning and development programs to upskill and train tech career starters and switchers to future-proof their demand for developer roles.

What managers can do to retain developers

Positive experiences set the groundwork for a happy return to the workplace should any adventures to the ‘outside’ world turn out to be not all that green and satisfying after all. There’s a chance that some developers will want to return and it’s important you create a safe and warm space they feel comfortable returning to.

Given that burnout, poor work-life balance, higher market salaries, and career/skills stagnation are drivers for developers to look elsewhere, managers could focus on health and wellbeing strategies, workload restructures, and reward and recognition benefits that make developers feel supported and appreciated. 

Need help sourcing qualified developers for your team? Get in touch