The ‘Great Resignation’ is coming for software development

The ‘Great Resignation’ is coming for your software development teams. With 38% in the UK and Ireland planning to change roles in the next six to 12 months, the potential impact on software developers may be much greater than within other industries.

The average cost of potential talent exodus per business is forecast at £10,076, and the overall potential cost of a talent exodus to UK and Irish economies is £17 billion.

We are in a time of software-enabled innovation, with software-led services significantly influencing bottom-line results. Businesses are starting to understand that regardless of industry, products, or services, they are a software business if at some point their relationship with customers is mediated by a screen. These types of projects rely on a combination of specialised tech talent across software developers, product managers, designers, engineers, and others.

Knowing that this type of talent is hard to acquire and expensive to maintain (yet can work anywhere), how do you foster happiness in long-term employees while attracting new talent? It starts with creating a collaborative work environment that they enjoy and can thrive in – one that prioritises their productivity, efficiency, and individual successes.

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Give developers the tools so that work feels like play

Companies of all sizes should be strategic about the use of developer time. Why waste human resources and attention on tasks that can be done quickly and less expensive through automation instead?

The cost of a developer minute is roughly $1.65, and the cost of a compute minute for automating a formerly manual process is approximately $0.006. Bear in mind the human cost of developers working on routine, low-impact, uninteresting activities, and it’s neither a good use of engineering skills, time, or attention for someone highly trained to stay motivated.

Instead, automate core building blocks as much as possible. Implement solutions that integrate easily with other tooling or processes. Remove friction for onboarding new developers allows for a simple life. A simple life means developers are innovating, not toiling.

A good place to start if you haven’t already is with CI/CD. A reliable build tool allows teams to automate their processes and practice good hygiene. That way, when systems become more complex, your business will have a foundation in place to handle them (you can thank me later).

Measure the right things – including morale

Experienced software development managers and leaders find that the most insightful and relevant metrics fall into three categories: Velocity, morale, and business metrics.

Engineering velocity is about measuring software delivery pipelines. Naturally managers love them. Yet, too much emphasis on engineering metrics alone, without considering the bigger picture, will serve to disconnect leadership and teams from the overall goals and the most efficient routes to them.

  • Velocity metrics help teams identify slowdowns and optimise performance. Examples include: Throughput, change lead time, sprint velocity, duration, mean time to recovery, and success rate.
  • Morale metrics might sound rather optional in an outcomes-focused place of business. Not so. These show how engineering rates the quality of the work and job happiness. Clearly retention is a pretty big business metric. High morale can lead to high retention rates. Items to measure include: Individual and team morale, and code quality confidence.
  • Business metrics like company growth, funnel metrics, and end-user value obviously help show how the organisation is succeeding. Keeping a pulse on the business in these ways feeds into keeping your technical teams happy. These metrics can inform your engineering teams and help them see where they fit. For example, in a fast growing business engineering must track what to build, expected degradation, and what infrastructure must be put in place.

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Invest in an outcomes-driven culture

Bringing developers closer to their customer and the challenges they help solve is what connects them to their employer. This means investing in solutions that bring software teams closer to the customer and breaking down barriers to foster a more collaborative atmosphere.

Empower them to become leaders as quickly as you can. Fine tune your metrics for success by focusing on outcomes over outputs. Bring your teams into the fold on wider company business goals.

Giving technical teams more autonomy can involve changing the structure and methodologies used, including implementing good code and development standards. This, when done effectively, requires good reviewing and documentation.

For organisations operating at scale, a best-in-class engineering team can be the difference between plateauing and market leadership. As the skilled innovators propelling business growth and market leadership, software development teams are so much more than technical support and drudgery. Their skills are in short supply, and if they are not supported in doing great work there’s little to stop them from finding a better place to work. One that has already removed the toil from their working day, allowing them to do their best and most engaging work.

Written by Rob Zuber, CTO of CircleCI

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