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Devs are unhappy in their roles. Here’s how to regain their trust in leadership

26 March 2024, by Marcelle van Niekerk

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In this article, we explore why developers are losing confidence in their growth prospects, and how rebuilding trust is key to improving developer retention.

Developers are less confident in their growth prospects and company management

In our latest Developer hiring and retention report, we’ve found that developers’ confidence in their growth prospects is at a three-year low:

Do you feel like you can develop your career at your company?

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When we asked devs what’s the biggest contributor to this decline, the majority said a lack of trust in their company’s leadership:

This made us ask: What’s behind devs losing their trust in company leadership and what can employers do to proactively address dev retention?

Companies have had to make difficult choices in a tougher climate

One factor that’s had a significant impact on tech companies and developers working for them is the tougher macroeconomic climate they’re operating in. VC funding is at its lowest point in a decade and the number of open tech roles is below pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time, the number of South African developers who report being retrenched has nearly doubled over the past 12 months:

Have you been retrenched in the past 12 months?

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As a result, developers are feeling insecure in their roles. On top of that, there’s more pressure inside of companies for teams to do more with less. Now developers are feeling the heat from these challenging times.

Another consequence of a tougher economic climate is companies cutting spending to help drive profitability. We can see this playing out in shrinking training budgets and salary increases compared to 2023. This is removing a key source of growth opportunities and making them look elsewhere for better-earning potential.

How you respond to tougher circumstances is critical to ensuring that your team trusts that your company is the best place for their careers. So what can you do to ensure you retain your top people?

The data says doubling down on career development and transparency are crucial.

Investing in your team’s growth is crucial for your retention efforts

The first step is to ensure that your team members feel confident that their career growth will continue if they stay with their current company. To do that, it helps to understand what developers are looking for to foster their development.

Provide your team with the right factors for career growth:

Developers’ top factors for career growth

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Let’s start with earning potential, which is the most important growth factor for software developers. In the current economic climate, you may not be able to offer the same increases that were more common a year ago.

But, your team members must understand that their hard work and ability to drive business value will be rewarded in the future. This can take different formats ranging from performance bonuses to offset lower salary increases to equity, especially for your senior team members.

Sizwe Ndlovu, CTO at Pineapple, explains what this can look like in practice:

“Our Level Up system provides a clear development trajectory for every team member, whether they want to be people managers or specialise in technology. As you move up, you get more responsibility and more pay. We provide mentorship and frequent check-ins for developers to keep themselves – and us as a company – accountable to their goals.”

At the same time, focusing on other aspects of career development can also help your team become more efficient:

“In the current climate, you really need to make sure your teams are organised effectively. As part of that, it also makes sense to invest more in your existing team’s training. They’re already up to speed on your culture and ways of working, and can really help you solve your biggest problems if you set them up right.” Nic Botes, Head of Engineering, OfferZen

More transparency can help restore devs’ trust in leadership

Proactively investing in your team’s career growth will go a long way, but transparency is the most important factor they need to be able to trust your leadership in the current market. That makes rebuilding trust another crucial part of your retention plans.

So what does that look like in practice? Help your team to understand how your company is performing, what the biggest challenges are and what you’re doing to address them.

Having this context helps your team understand:

  • how their work will help drive meaningful business change and contribute to the company’s success.
  • the broader product roadmap and timelines.

This will also have the added advantage of providing one of their top management green flags, which will contribute to your retention efforts.

Get our 2024 Developer hiring & retention report packed with more insights to attract devs and help them thrive in your team.

Download the full report

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