What high turnover means for software development

Workers got it – and software developers are no different.

High employee attrition is palpable across all industries, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recording 4.4 million quits in September, the highest number measured since the job vacancies survey began. employment and staff turnover in 2000.

Among technical teams, staff turnover is now the norm, in part due to pent-up attrition from the previous pandemic era and the scarcity of talent in high-demand areas. Nearly four in 10 executives say they struggle with turnover on their tech teams, according to a survey of 700 senior IT and development decision makers published by PagerDuty.

IT people are “very eager to move because they see an opportunity,” said Bill Swanton, a prominent VP analyst at Gartner. “They see people making more money, they see a lot of job offers and not a lot of people to follow them, so they feel very comfortable [that] they could change jobs relatively easily.”

Employers are so in need of labor that companies have started recruiting more junior talent. It’s a candidate market, and those with in-demand skills know that.

For software development teams used to working together, frequent attrition can impact team dynamics, according to Chris Gardner, vice president and research director at Forrester.

“You change the chemistry of the team,” Gardner said. “If you have an Agile team that meets frequently, bringing new people to the team or losing people to the team can definitely affect that dynamic.”

While unemployment in IT jobs is at record highs, the attrition phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. For leaders trying to maintain consistency in software development, this means finding ways to increase retention while implementing solutions such as consolidated DevOps practices that encourage consistency in software production.

Some companies plan to respond to technical team attrition with skills upgrading, taking existing workers and training them to fill talent gaps in areas that need special attention. But this approach is not a quick undertaking.

“Generally, if you form a new team, it will take [the team] up to a year to really fire on all cylinders,” Swanton said. “You’re just not going to do what you set out to do.

Rollover can impact organizations differently depending on their technology stack. Companies with legacy platforms that are difficult to maintain are more heavily impacted by the loss of institutional knowledge than those that upgraded in time.

“Having people leave organizations that have this legacy knowledge certainly still affects things, but in some situations those platforms have already been modernized, so they’re less affected at this point,” Gardner said.

Tools and experiences

Leaders looking to boost retention so turnover isn’t an issue need to assess where their company stands in terms of comprehensive work experience, said Fiona Mark, principal analyst at Forrester.

The first order of business is “a realization of the importance of the overall employee experience and how it impacts your ability to attract and retain tech talent,” Mark said.

For software developers, this could mean the availability of AI-assisted development tools, although questions remain about the maturity of available tools, such as GitHub’s Copilot.

Workers need to feel like they’re putting the best of their talents to work, “to make them feel like they’re not just a cog in the machine, but really delivering and using all of their unique abilities,” according to Mark.

But assuming attrition is here to stay, a review of work processes and tools is important, according to Gardner.

“If they’re leveraging holistic platforms to develop the software, then losing people and replacing them is less impactful,” Gardner said.

Half of enterprise development teams will move to a consolidated DevOps toolchain by next year, according to Forrester forecasts. It’s a decision that can reduce the impact of staff turnover on development teams, according to Gardner.

“There are people today who are leveraging bits of DevOps toolchains and putting them together themselves and what we’re seeing is that people are moving towards single platforms which will make it easier transitions when people leave and join,” Gardner said. .

Gordon K. Morehouse