Hire and Keep the Best App Development Talent

July 05, 2018

Contributor: Susan Moore

Top organizations thrive with a team of enthusiastic application developers who are highly engaged and feel valued.

Cool startups and digital giants are vying for top app development talent, so for a bank or government agency, it might seem a big challenge to attract and retain the best.

In every industry, new players are entering the market. The more disruptive entrants want to make their mark by hiring high-quality software engineering talent, putting a strain on the available talent pool. Once enterprises manage to find and hire a quality developer, they're in constant danger of another company poaching their best employees.

“ Attracting and retaining great developers comes down to understanding and listening to them”

A key characteristic of a thriving digital business is a workforce of enthusiastic contributors who are highly engaged. According to Gartner, more than two-thirds of the fastest scaling digital businesses will directly attribute their growth to an engaged and evolving company culture in the next five years.

Adrian Leow, research director at Gartner, says application leaders need to help evolve company culture into one that attracts and retains the right development talent to build an effective workforce.

“After working for three years on the same project with no possibility of moving off due to resource constraints, many developers feel trapped and suffer burnout,” Leow says. “When you go to work, you want to be part of a culture that provides meaning and purpose to what you do.”

However, application leaders often don't prioritize or know how to shape an organizational culture that’s aligned with developers' ideals.


How application leaders can help

"Attracting and retaining great developers comes down to understanding and listening to them," says Leow.

Provide them with challenging work and opportunities to grow both in their abilities and careers. Use cutting-edge technology for architecture, development and automation. And remember that they have lives outside of coding. Where appropriate, offer your developers the option to telecommute a few days each week.

Here are five steps to spur the growth of high-performing software development teams.

  1. Create a culture of innovation and "intrapreneurship". Identify and encourage individuals whose developer skills and creative abilities make them good candidates to take on innovative roles that require an entrepreneurial mindset. Expose developers to customer needs to encourage a customer-centric approach. Also look for the “intrapreneurs” — those who act like an entrepreneur, but within the larger organization.
  2. Allow work across preassigned areas of specialization. Encourage cross-pollination of ideas by allowing developers to work across preassigned areas of specialization, such as integration or security. This keeps them satisfied and motivated. Do this in conjunction with a merit-based reward mechanism.
  3. Don’t hire individual “rock stars”. Development teams that value individual rock stars over rock bands suffer loss of productivity and morale. Instead, recruit and assemble teams of developers that act as a supportive community. They’ll feed off each other's ideas, which leads to highly productive and innovative teams.
  4. Cultivate a growth mindset. Applying a growth mindset will help development teams embrace the concept of "failing fast", which is important in agile development. Fear of failure should not deter people trying new things. Instead, developers quickly learn to improve and move on to the next iteration.
  5. Create a psychologically safe environment. Psychological safety is the shared belief that a team is a safe place for interpersonal risk taking. Members feel accepted, respected and free to express their true feelings and thoughts, without fear of negative consequences for their status, image or career opportunities. In a 2012 study within Google, researchers found that psychologically safe teams performed better.

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