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Remote work is key in preventing the next great developer resignation

The software development world has changed over the last couple of years, and overall, developers have benefited. Software development has increased, demand for developers has gone up, and developers at large have sought out better jobs.

What happens next? Will developers continue to move jobs at higher levels or will it settle down? Will companies change and put more effort and money into keeping developers, instead of focusing most of their efforts into hiring replacements?

The stages of the great developer resignation

Here’s how the great developer resignation will come about, in stages:

  • Remote working — meeting overload, burnout.
  • Increase in remote working leads to an increase in demand for software, and an increase in demand for developers.
  • Developers move jobs to get better roles and better pay.
  • Developers take sabbaticals.

It seems COVID is calming down, and with restrictions being removed in most countries, in-person meetings are back on.

When I went into an office recently, I estimate only 10 percent of its seating capacity was being utilized. Many office workers can indeed function remotely, and most companies are not forcing workers to come into the office. This is a limbo situation; without other people in the office, there isn’t a benefit to going into the office.

Winners and losers of the great resignation

Who were the winners and losers of the great resignation?

The big losers are software companies who hire developers. They lost experienced developers (experienced in their projects, processes, culture ,and people) and had to pay higher wages, and spend on recruitment time and recruitment fees to replace those developers.

At the time many companies were trying to grow development teams, developers were leaving in greater numbers than ever before. It wasn’t a ‘great’ resignation; it was developers playing musical chairs and getter better jobs with more pay.

There is an onboarding cost for new developers whilst they ramp up their knowledge on the company, projects, processes and colleagues. New developers are less effective and take time from experienced, existing developers. Add the addition of bad recruiting/bad culture fit to the disruption of hiring new developers.

During COVID-19, the demand for software created an increase in demand for software developers. This pushed up the wages for devs. If companies hire developers at the same rate developers are leaving, they will pay additional money to keep the same team size.

Software companies were not used to the power resting with developers (e.g. they could move companies easily for higher pay), and I saw firms that didn’t adapt to this change. The articulation I heard from managers was defeatist: people were leaving, and they believed there wasn’t anything they could do about it.

Easier to move

Now more developers have moved at least once and the majority have only remote relationships with colleagues. Does this mean they are more likely to move in the future? It seems there would be less to keep developers at their new companies.

Many developers who haven’t moved job fear moving jobs and the longer you don’t do something, the bigger and worse it seems. Change is disruptive because of the unknown, and we don’t know how we will react. The easier, safer option is to stay where you are.

It’s easy to imagine the worst, even if the outcome is unlikely. Fear is bigger in our minds than in reality. Developers who have moved once have faced that fear and removed this barrier removed to moving.

Developers can only move if there is demand for developers, their ability to move is linked with the economy and demand for software.

What happens next?

The next step in the great resignation is companies focusing on keeping their existing developers with wage increases aligned with average wages for their experience and skills.

Companies will look at benefits they can offer, and use permanent remote working to keep developers. Companies will push in-person events to encourage developers to see each other and create relationships. Relationships are a powerful tool in making effective teams, and are another barrier to moving (assuming you like your colleagues).

I hope there will be a focus on mental health and helping developers avoid burnout. It’s easy for developers to get burnt out with unrealistic demands and deadlines on a software project. This is a symptom of poor management and contributor of resignation, often seen among the most effective developers.

Remote working will be here to stay for now, because it’s a benefit that developers like and has proven to have no reduction in output in the last two years.

Companies need to help developers progress their careers because it’s easier to move. This will require improvement in coaching, management, and training. Its dangerous to keep developers on career dead-end projects, because they can leave easily.

In the Microsoft Dynamics/Power Platform world, I am seeing bigger companies moving to buy smaller companies to hire enough additional developers and meet demand.

Summing up

The power stays with developers for the time being, and companies will need to focus on retaining talent and keeping people happy. Focusing on hiring is missing half of the equation, and reducing resignations means needing to hire fewer people.

Companies need to fix the holes in their leaky boats instead of focusing on bailing out water.

Greater flexibility and benefits will keep developers around for longer, and spell success for them and their employers.

This article was originally published on Medium; find it here.

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