According to a fairly recent report, there are around 4 million software developers in the US, but this number doesn’t account for the seniority level of the devs or their years of experience in the field.
To get a decent approximation of that data, we can look at this Zippia report, which puts the number of senior developers (in the United States) at around 165K.
Using the magic of some simple math, it turns out that out of the entire pool of developers in the States, only around 4% of those are senior developers. This kind of makes sense in hindsight, but it’s still intuitively a lot less than a lot of managers would lead you to believe.
In Europe, some time ago, there were 5.5M software developers, and that number has grown significantly by 2022. Germany leads, while the UK and France trail behind as the top 3 countries that have the largest number of developers on the old continent.
Globally, the numbers are a little different. According to a recent survey, the number of developers worldwide is a little more than 26M, and it features 13.5M full-time, 7.8M part-time, and around 5M non-compensated developers.
Loosely speaking, a senior developer is a professional with at least 5 years of experience in backend, frontend, or fullstack development, or sometimes even more than that.
Therefore, if finding quality software developers is hard, getting (and specifically retaining) senior devs within the delineation of your company is even harder.
Thankfully, I took it upon myself (again) to get some actionable tips on how to motivate and retain your most experienced developers and make them enjoy the work environment without breaking a sweat.
Create the right environment
Just like any other working environment, senior developers will want to work in a place where they feel appreciated, comfortable, and productive. The only problem with this assumption is that every individual’s ideal working environment is different.
This is why your office needs to become “the promised land” in order to motivate and retain employees, or in this case, senior software developers.
But, how to create an environment like that?
A Stack Overflow survey may shed some light on the issue at hand, and delve a bit deeper into these related topics.
In it, generally, they asked professional developers to compare jobs with almost identical offers and choose one or the other, and/or list reasons for staying or leaving a company. However, the most important reason for the respondents in the survey was the availability of tools, frameworks, and other technologies to accept a job offer. Correspondingly, also, one of the reasons for staying was the salary, even though not a primary reason at all.
The second reason, according to the same respondents, was the office environment or the company culture, closely followed by a flexible schedule, options for remote work, and how impactful their work output would be (generally speaking).
After that, the developers listed the industry, the financial performance of the organization, the specific department they’d be working on as a team member, and the company diversity as the last job factor that would make them take up the job offer or stay working at the same company. Now more than ever, developers do their own research about a company's reputation before they decide to move forward with applying at all.
Now, truth be told, this took into account all developers and not just senior developers; however, we can assume that those that responded to the survey were the ones that were most interested in contributing and were most open to improvement and change.
Above all else, developers won't have the need to look for a job elsewhere if they are given opportunities for flexibility, good income, and learning.
And, given all this so far, we can conclude that the same job priorities would also apply to senior developers as well.
Offer better career packages
Recognition and rewards for working on a project and successfully completing it is something that has been proven to work time and again!
In fact, the conclusion is always the same: rewarding your employees is the number one thing that leads to improved work engagement and a surge in productivity.
Most of the time, your senior software developers will be the most experienced employees in the company (although, not always), and they should be treated as such.
Offering your senior devs better career packages will be beneficial both for your company and your other senior employees as well, as it motivates developers to give their best and stay loyal as long as they could.
Some of these packages could include:
- Various financial incentives
- Better health and dental plans
- The ability for remote work
- Improved paid leave
- The ability to work on their passion projects, both outside and inside the company
However, use the promise of promotions sparingly and carefully. Promotions usually mean more responsibility and accountability, and many senior developers are already actively and thoroughly engaged in their current projects to the brim.
Give them the freedom to think and work on their own
Sometimes, offering huge financial incentives is just not all there is to retain your most experienced talent.
A better paycheck is great, but the ability to think, work and solve problems creatively is something that is severely lacking in the modern workplace.
Regardless of seniority, most companies have strict decision-making hierarchies. All the most important things are decided at the top and then delegated downward depending on the management and the structure of the company itself.
This leaves little room for creativity, openness, and the ability to solve problems on an individual level.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. For example, Valve has a flat hierarchical structure, meaning that there are no managers, overtly formal positions, or centralized plans. There is a CEO, but company decisions are made on the level of something they refer to as “cabals”.
Cabals are groups that Valve employees can spontaneously create, join, or leave. Individual job responsibilities between cabals can vary. For example, a project manager in one cabal can become a software engineer in the next one (likewise, there are those that are opposed and skeptical of this organizational model).
Give your senior developers room to solve problems on their own. This will unleash their creativity and improve the chances of them remaining loyal for years to come.
Regardless of your business goals and the future plans of how your company should operate, consider rewarding your most experienced developers in order to adapt and survive the tough landscape of the modern corporate world.
By doing that, you would essentially establish a reputation that will precede your job descriptions and will create the ideal working environment to retain your most experienced developers in the long run.