Workers have had it — and software developers are no different.
High employee attrition is palpable across industries, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recording 4.4 million resignations in September, the highest number measured since the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary survey started in the year 2000.
Among tech teams, staff rotation is now the norm, partly driven by pent-up attrition in the earlier pandemic era, and scarce supply of talent in high-demand fields. Nearly four in 10 leaders say they're dealing with employee turnover in their technical teams, according to a survey of 700 senior IT and development decision-makers published by PagerDuty.
IT workers are "very eager to move because they see an opportunity," said Bill Swanton, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner. "They see people making more money, they see a lot of job openings and not a lot of people to go after them, so they feel very comfortable [that] they could change jobs relatively easily."
Employer need for workers is so high that companies have started to recruit more junior talent. It's a candidate's market, and those who have high-demand skills are aware of it.
For software development teams accustomed to working together, frequent attrition can impact team dynamics, according to Chris Gardner, VP and research director at Forrester.
"You're changing the chemistry of the team," said Gardner. "If you have an Agile team that's frequently meeting, bringing new folks onto the team or losing folks on the team can definitely affect that dynamic."
With unemployment across IT positions hitting record lows, the attrition phenomenon isn't showing signs of a slowdown. For leaders trying to maintain consistency in software development, that means finding ways to increase retention while putting in place solutions such as consolidated DevOps practices that encourage the consistency of software production.
Some companies are planning to respond to attrition in technical teams with upskilling, taking existing workers and cross-training them to fill talent gaps in areas that need attention. But this approach isn't a quick undertaking.
"Typically, if you form a new team, it's going to take [the team] as much as a year to really be firing on all cylinders," said Swanton. "You're just not going to get stuff done that you had planned to get done."
Turnover may impact organizations differently depending on their technology stack. Companies with tough-to-maintain legacy platforms are more heavily impacted by the loss of institutional knowledge than those who upgraded in time.
"Having people leave the organizations that have that 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 that turnover isn't an issue must assess their company's stance in terms of a complete worker experience, said Fiona Mark, principal analyst at Forrester.
The first order of business is "a realization around the importance of the overall employee experience, and how that impacts your ability to attract and retain tech talent," Mark said.
For software developers, that could mean making AI-assisted development tools available, though questions linger about the maturity of available tools, such as GitHub's Copilot.
Workers must feel like they are putting the best of their talents to work, "to make them feel that they really are not just a cog in the machine, but really delivering and using all of their unique capabilities," according to Mark.
But assuming attrition is here to stay, a review of work processes and tools are important, according to Gardner.
"If they leverage holistic platforms to build out the software, then losing folks and replacing them has less of an impact," Gardner said.
Half of enterprise development teams are going to switch to a consolidated DevOps tool chain by next year, according to Forrester predictions. It's a move that can reduce the impact of staff turnover on development teams, according to Gardner.
"There are folks that today leverage bits and pieces of DevOps tool chains and put them together themselves and what we're finding is that people are moving towards single platforms, and that will make the transitions easier when people leave and join," Gardner said.