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Software Engineering Team’s Turnover. How to prevent it and secure your projects?

Software developers are the most wanted specialists in 2021. Finding an engineer matching your needs is already challenging – but making them stay is another story. How to efficiently secure your projects and prevent staff turnover in the software engineering team? 

Why do developers leave?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the global talent shortage has already reached 40 million. Although the COVID-19 pandemic made remote hiring and working a common practice and created more opportunities for specialists worldwide, it has only slightly improved the situation. 65% of employees still believe that they can easily find the next job position with a higher salary, and leave their current work environment with no fear or regrets. So the question is not only about: how to find software engineers, but also: how to retain them? 

According to a LinkedIn report, staff turnover in the IT industry is higher than in any other sector – it has reached 13.2% in 2017. What does it actually mean? Turnover rate (attrition rate) is the number of employees leaving the organization in a certain period, divided by the number of employees, and multiplied by 100. Turnover might be both voluntary or involuntary (the cases of staff getting fired).

So, why do developers leave? According to LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and TechHub, the main reasons for job switching by tech workers are:

  • seeking higher compensation (71% or 78%)
  • lack of opportunities for advancement (45%) or career growth opportunities (76%)
  • being unsatisfied with leadership (41%), work environment (36%) or company culture (53%)
  • the desire for bigger challenges (36%) or more responsibility (32%)
  • need for more creative tasks (26%).
Main reasons for job switching by tech workers
The main reasons for job switching by tech workers (in percentages)

Risks from burnout rate of software developers

Being reluctant to reduce staff turnover can negatively impact the business in many terms. Companies that are reluctant to take actions usually experience: 

  • Revenue and productivity loss. According to DevSkiller, it takes 43 days on average to hire a software developer. This means almost 1,5 months of delay on a project and doesn’t include the costs of onboarding of a newbie. This may trigger the costs of even ten thousand dollars.
  • Domino effect. Departing of one may result in taking the same decisions by others. Lack of one, especially key employee can lower morale and motivation of others. This is a major risk especially in case when the rest of the team becomes overworked in the harsh and long recruitment period when there is a need to compensate for the absence of the former employee.
  • Losing expertise. Losing an employee means also losing access to their knowledge. According to Forbes, it usually takes 1 or 2 months for the replacement to get to full productivity which creates bottlenecks. Losing a key staff member can also result in a serious slowdown on projects and the company’s growth opportunities.

How to lower software engineering turnover?

If you wish to work on your projects in an undisturbed way, you basically have two options. You can either put some effort into lowering your software engineering team turnover or, if already you know your attrition rate, carefully plan when you should start hunting for a new team member.  

If you’re up to the first path, there are at least a few methods that you can try out in order to mitigate tech staff turnover:

  • Create a positive work-life balance. A healthy attitude to work becomes top importance of younger employees in all industries. Thus, keeping your Gen-Y employees engaged, also in activities not related to work itself such as team buildings and integrations, might make them want to stay with you longer.
  • Flexibility. Companies that allow remote work or flexible hours have a 25% lower turnover rate on average. 
  • Opportunities for development. LinkedIn found out that 94% of employees would stay longer if the company would invest in their career.
  • More meaningful tasks and recognition. According to ServiceNow, employees want their work to be meaningful. Moreover, 51% of software engineers are likely to work for less money, but to have a chance to work on a really attractive product or service.
  • Clear career paths and regular salary upgrades. 
  • Upgrade benefit package. Glassdoor found that 89% of millennials, who are now a majority among developers, would choose better benefits over a pay raise. Providing health insurance, bonuses, gifts or vouchers may help to strengthen their bind with the company.
Methods to mitigate software developers turnover
Methods to mitigate tech staff turnover

How to know that a developer will leave?

However, the truth is that even if you put in a lot of effort, you may not be able to retain those who are determined to leave. Even industry giants are not resistant to staff turnover. According to Business Insider, employees of Uber, Dropbox or Tesla stay with the company no longer than 1.8-2.1 years. How to predict that your employee will leave you soon in order to get prepared?

Knowing your attrition rate and general data related to the turnover of software engineers, there are some signs that can alert you that you may need to start searching for a new staff member soon. Those are for example:

  • Major changes in the employee’s life.
  • Completing a new certification or a degree.
  • Resignation of one of their close coworkers or a manager.
  • Managerial decisions, such as layoffs, changes in management structure, etc.
  • Being recently refused a raise or promotion.
  • Loss of productivity, quality or engagement in work and tasks. 
  • Avoiding committing to long-term projects and duties. 

Moreover, remember to track the employee’s resume and work history. Knowing that developers tend to switch jobs every 2 years on average, you can set up the calendar and keep an eye on your team.

Summary

No matter how much effort you will put in retaining your software developers, it may not be enough to prevent staff turnover in such a dynamic industry. Having a plan B is never bad, especially knowing that you can expect to lose an employee every 2 years. This will prevent bottlenecks, help to keep the overall team productivity on an acceptable level, and assure that you will deliver the project on time.


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