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A Lack of Growth Opportunities Costs You Developers: Here’s What They Want

4 October 2022 , by Josh Nel

Why are developers leaving your company? You might not be offering the right growth opportunities. To retain your best people, you must invest in their career growth. We asked developers what they want, so you know what to prioritise.


A lack of growth opportunities costs you current and future team members

The tech hiring market has cooled down from its record highs in late 2021 and early 2022. A lot of companies have either slowed or frozen hiring. Some companies have had to go further and lay off employees.

However, it remains difficult to hire great developer talent. Why?

The increase in global competition

With the shift to remote, competition for software developers has become global: You’re not only competing with local tech companies but with any tech company hiring across borders. In addition, everyone is eyeing the same talent in the same places and channels making the market even more competitive.

That’s why you need to make sure that your offer stands out through a great overall package of great benefits, leadership, company culture and opportunities for career growth.

Given how competitive the hiring market still is, retaining your current team members is even more important.

Prioritise career development to retain your developers:

If you want to retain the best people on your team, then investing in their career growth is a great place to start:

More than half of South African developers and 45.1% of developers in the Netherlands would stay in a job for growth opportunities.

Developers who feel they can continue growing at their current company stay longer than those who don’t.

62% of software developers in the Netherlands who plan to stay with their current company for the next five years believe they can continue their career growth there. Of those currently looking for a new role, only 18% believe they still have room left to grow.

A lack of growth opportunities is costing you developers

Developers are clearly serious about growth, and they’re prepared to leave roles that don’t provide enough opportunities to continue their development: A lack of opportunities for career growth is among the top reasons why developers in both South Africa and the Netherlands leave a role.

That means you risk losing some of your best people to something that is within your control. On top of that, you’re jeopardising your future hiring efforts.

1 in 3 developers in the Netherlands would turn down an offer if they don't believe they could grow at a company.

So what exactly do developers want for career growth?

Career development can mean different things to different people and makes it hard to know what you should focus on. To that end, we asked software developers about their most important factors for career growth, so you know what to look out for.

According to their responses, the most important of these are:

  • Challenging projects
  • Earning potential, and
  • Mentorship.

Let’s unpack each of these and why they matter to your developers.

Developers want challenging projects to grow their skillset

Working on challenging projects is one of the most important growth factors for software developers in South Africa and the Netherlands.

Developers are serious about their work; the majority see it as more of a craft than a job. Previous surveys have shown that most developers code as a hobby and learn new languages at least once a year.

As with any other craft, honing your skills requires working on more complex or unfamiliar tasks. In the case of developers, that takes the form of challenging projects where they can practice their skills and identify gaps in their knowledge.

This holds great benefits for employers, too. Developers with these skills can tackle more complex technical and business problems. This, in turn, helps them add even more value to your business.

Developers want to see clear earning potential in their career path

Developers also want to know that this impact will be rewarded fairly. That’s why you need to make sure their earning potential within your organisation is very clear.

So what exactly is earning potential? It’s tempting to think about it purely in terms of salary, but that’s only one part. A better way to think about it is in terms of the total compensation package on offer, which includes bonuses, equity and other benefits. This is especially important for your senior team members.

Your developers want to see a clear path to a higher compensation package as they take on more responsibility within your company.

Your compensation package is not the only way to invest in your team members. Providing them with mentorship and training is another way to show your commitment to their growth.

Developers want mentorship and training

Mentoring is a time-consuming process that may not yield immediate results, but it demonstrates to your developers that you’re willing to put in the time and effort needed to help them take the next step in their journey.

Mentorship is especially important for your junior team members who are still finding their feet and eager to sharpen their skills. Having access to more experienced team members greatly speeds up their learning process and means that they’re more likely to impact your mission in a shorter period of time. This makes it a great way to grow seniority within your team.

That’s not to say that only juniors care about mentoring:

More than a third of tech leads say that mentorship and coaching are important to their career development.

Why? Taking on more responsibility for a team comes with a steep learning curve, and having someone to support the transition sets up your leads to succeed in these positions.

Keep in mind

Data used in this article is taken from OfferZen’s 2022 State of South Africa’s Software Developer Nation Report, 2022 Netherlands Report: State of the Software Developer Nation, 2022 South Africa Software Engineering Hiring Report, and 2022 Netherlands Software Engineering Hiring Report unless referenced otherwise.

It’s also important to remember that every individual’s context is different. Salary is a personal conversation that should take place between employee and employer.

Check out our blog for more resources on hiring and retaining developers.

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