Holding onto your developers: The why and the how

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Developer Retention – It’s mission critical. Here’s why.


Today a staggering 22% of workers stay in their job less than a year – a situation that’s getting worse, as 60% of companies report retention rates in 2016 that are lower than in 2013.


It’s clear - low staff retention rates are a modern day affliction, and if you have a team of developers you’ve got an even bigger problem. IT departments have the second highest staff turnover rate (second only to sales and marketing). Worse still, there’s a skills shortage on the horizon,so you’ll shortly face an ever shrinking talent pool for your new hires. Make no mistake – the situation is grave (and you should also know that the average cost of a lost employee is £30,614).

Yet beyond costs and time-consuming recruitment and training processes, there’s something else that far eclipses even these two critically important points - the competitive advantage that you could be losing with each developer who walks out the door. Ultimately the loss of a team member results in lost momentum, goodwill and stability. Leading to more losses. And so it goes on. 


Short of chaining your star coder to their PC, you’re going to need some pretty savvy tricks up your commercial sleeve to ensure your devs remain happy, engaged and productive. Sound like a tough task? Then we’d better get to work...


That’s the why of dev retention. Now for the how...


1. Invest in your developers

They, and your staff at large, are your most invaluable business asset

32% of employees say they’re motivated to stay by opportunities to develop their skills, while 39% report that it is an opportunity for career growth that ensures they stick around. Think of investment in the professional growth of your developers, as an investment in your company.

“Employees who are 'engaged and thriving' are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months”.

- Gallup

2. Under promise. Over deliver. Always.

It’s simply good business sense that extends from the treatment of your own clients, to your entire staff base.

Be it a chance at promotion, power, progression or the prospect of bigger, better projects on which to work, you should only ever promise what can be delivered (and what can be delivered in a timely manner).

Do things differently, and be ambitious – aim to make your employees your firm fans and avid brand ambassadors. Just as Steve Jobs did when allowing employees the option of taking a computer home before recycling it, providing discounts and giving surprise gifts. And just as Apple does today by treating all employees as executives (leading to Apple having its highest staff retention rates ever, at 81%).

3. Variety – it’s the spice of life

Mix it up. Boredom is the #1 de-motivator. No matter the profession.

No profession is immune from boredom, but variety and freedom often brings about innovation and incredible productivity.

It’s why Google allows their employees 20% of their working time to commit to their own projects (something that led to the ground-breaking Gmail – the email program that today commands a 22% market share, second only to Apple iPhone). It’s also why Shutterstock, Uber and Facebook hold annual employee hackathons.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

 –Steve Jobs

Unsure where to begin or how you can provide professional diversity and role variety? Your employees could be the people to ask – on which note, it’s vital that you....

4. Talk.

Then act. The best ideas come from the shop floor.

Ask your developers for their ideas – things that will make their lives easier, the business more profitable or the company culture healthier. Something as simple as an employee suggestions box can lead to tangible differences for turnover (with famous examples including the Post It Note product for 3M and a customer loyalty program at Amazon that boosted Prime customer purchases by 150%).

5. Create a winning company culture

“19% of executives said new hires, especially millennials, leave because they don’t like their organization’s culture”.

- Korn Ferry

Your branding and your defining differences begin and end with your employees. Ask yourself - what differentiates you? How would you describe the personality of your company? And more importantly, does that personality grate on your developers, or make them jump out of bed in the morning?

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6. Keep an ear to the ground and a finger on the pulse of salaries and rewards

After all, for all the will in the world (and the best company culture), money talks

 “Thirty-five percent of employees said they'd look for a new job if they do not receive a pay raise in the next year”.

- Glassdoor

Let’s face it, no matter how amazing your culture, how impressive your wellbeing program, how innovative your professional diversity efforts, it will all come to nothing without the right money, and the right money that stays in line with inflation. Keeping an eye on the market averages and jobs boards is a non-negotiable to ensure your developers are feeling financially sound.

“44% of employees say they would consider taking a job with a different company for a raise of 20% or less”.

- Gallup

As for rewards - monetary motivators such as overtime pay, bonuses, profit sharing, recognition rewards and sales commission each serve as strong drivers of employee loyalty.

7. Company perks – it’s time to up your game

Employees are looking for more than money

What benefits do you offer your devs? Marble suggest that you focus on four cores areas - they summarise these as healthy, wealthy, ‘the sweet pot’ and wise. Here’s a rundown of their ideas...

  • Healthy – gym membership; yoga and meditation; wellbeing program; boot camp; bike parking; healthy cooking and nutrition classes; group transport; counselling services and rock climbing walls.
  • Wealthy – stock incentives; profit share; financial planning seminars; project bonuses; salary packaging and transparent commissions.
  • Wise – mentoring program; paid conferences; comprehensive career reviews; industry membership funding; suggestion boxes; structured training & development and internal innovation forums.
  • The sweet pot – flexible hours/telecommuting; home cleaning; free coffee machine; transport subsidises; partner involvement; meal provisions; day-care support and laundry services.

That’s it. The seven secrets behind developer retention. Now, where next?

Master these pointers and developers won’t just stick around, they’ll be at their most productive and most engaged. But let’s face it, for those not in the business of tech staff retention, perfecting these steps can seem a tough task. And if you’re mourning the loss of a valuable developer, you could be at a loss as to why.

We can turn detective to discover why your team member called it quits (and most importantly – how you can avoid a repeat performance). We’ll also source a swift, skilled replacement, to minimise disruption.


If you’re looking for truly tailored retention strategies, Softweb Resourcing can help.

hello@softwebresourcing.com | +44 (0)117 428 9400


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