It’s always tricky to lure and keep talented software developers. For starters, they’re already employed someplace else. And if they’re already part of your company, other employers will try to poach them.

The perennial talent shortage in technology doesn’t help either:

  • IT companies are always in flux when solving technology problems.
  • Demand for specific IT skills change every few years.

Because of this, last year’s sought-after skills might not be in vogue now.

At Remote Workmate, we’re all about finding the best people and matching them with clients. Here are some of the things we know about attracting and retaining software developers.

See if your employees are happy

Before searching for talent or finding ways to keep them, you have to look within. Are your people happy working for you?

Why does this matter? Because if they are, your developers would want to stay. Plus, happy developers recommend their employers to friends.

But how do you find out if your people are happy? Before you start hiring again, you can:

  • Compute your employee turnover. Just divide your total number of leavers in a month by your average number of employees in a month. Then multiply the number by 100.
  • Ask them. These days, the most effective way is via a pulse survey, which is a short survey sent out on a regular basis.
  • Look at what people say in anonymous suggestion boxes (if you have one).

Examine why people leave

Sooner or later, your employees will leave. It’s unavoidable but that’s fine. After all, people’s needs change.

If you can keep your turnover at 10% (which is a good number to aim for) and your leavers are low performers, your company should do fine. But if the leavers are high performers, you’re going to spend more to replace them.

A more urgent concern is finding out why your employees leave in the first place. Knowing this would help you address issues and persuade your superstars to stay.

Here are a few ways you can get to the root of the problem:

  • Run regular engagement interviews to find out your employees’ motivations and outlook.
  • Have an external consultant do exit interviews. The consultant will then give regular reports that keep the feedback anonymous.
  • Look at leavers’ patterns. They ought to have some things in common (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity).
  • Ask outsiders what they think about your company’s culture.
  • Ask your employees why they stay.

Of course, these efforts would be effective only if you take the criticism to heart and fix what’s broken.

Go where developers hang out

It’s not easy for startups to compete with large companies when recruiting top talent. That’s because large companies have deeper pockets, more perks, and brand awareness. But with some savvy, you can level the playing field.

One way to do this is by going to where your prospects are online. Post job openings on known developer hotspots like:

  • Stack Overflow – specifically its jobs section.
  • Ruby Now, a Rails-focused job board.
  • Dice, a popular career tech website.

If you’re recruiting offshore developers, study up on their country’s culture, etiquette, and norms. It’s important to know how to act properly when interacting with candidates.

Form small dev teams

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a two-pizza rule where if two pizzas aren’t enough to feed a team, then that team is too big.

The rule applies to software developers as well.

Smaller developer teams are more agile and communicating with them is easier. Larger teams have more members, which means disagreement is more likely. If you run into a problem, it’s easier to sort through with a small team.

It’s no wonder smaller teams tend to outperform larger ones. Here’s proof.

But how does this help retain developers? Having smaller teams can lead to happier employees overall, and happier employees stay.

Trust them

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If you trust someone enough to hire them, then you should trust them well enough to do their job. If you can’t, any rule you put in place to address this lack of trust will affect everyone on the team.

This will also lead to:

  • More tasks focused on monitoring people rather than doing actual work.
  • Lower motivation for your top performers.
  • You spending more time micromanaging your team.

To develop a culture of trust in your team, you should give trust – because trust is reciprocal. By trusting your software developers, they’ll learn to trust you as well.

Remember: trust increases speed and lowers business cost.

Focus on learning

Because of evolving IT demands, you need to develop your employees’ abilities – or run into a skills gap. Some entrepreneurs hesitate to do this because everyone leaves eventually. What’s the point of training staff only for them to leave and join the competition?

But the research says otherwise. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay longer at a company if it invested in their career.

For best results, try these strategies:

  • Introduce micro learning. It’s small and quick enough to squeeze into a workday.
  • Involve your managers. Ask them the best time to schedule learning each day, and what skills your people want to develop.
  • Invest in personal development as well. Have them attend seminars on emotional health, personal finance, and soft skills.

Give them reasons to stay

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It’s not enough to know why people leave; you also need to find out why they stick around.

According to a 1973 Harvard Business Review study, it’s because of “inertia”. In other words, people stay until they’re forced to leave. It’s on you to give them reasons to stay.

On a basic level, ensure that your employees are engaged. You can do this by:

  • Getting to know them on a personal level.
  • Establishing rapport.
  • Giving them the tools to succeed.
  • Fostering a psychologically safe workplace.
  • Ensuring that the work you provide challenges.

Next, make sure they’re treated well. Show them you care and recognise their hard work. If they need financial help, lend them a hand.

Such an approach will create a positive relationship between you and your employees. They might even stay when they get better job offers from your competitors.

Partner with us

If you want to hire and retain the best software developers, team up with Remote Workmate. Unlike freelancing marketplaces and job boards where you do everything yourself, we handle all the heavy lifting for you (e.g. screening, payroll, onboarding).

You can actually choose from our pool of top candidates right away. Simply click the button below to browse a wide range of profiles on our Hotlist page.