Retaining Talent as the Developer Role Evolves

Traditional development roles are rapidly evolving due to increased remote work and the Great Resignation. Company leadership must also adapt to retain that talent and ensure the success of their dev teams.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in November 2021—and in December 2021, CompTIA’s Tech Jobs Report showed that open job postings for tech and IT roles increased 53% year-over-year. With the need for tech and IT talent persisting in 2022, a combination of widespread burnout and technical skills gaps have made it even more difficult to find and retain top IT talent.

But that’s not the only challenge. The impact of remote work has triggered fundamental changes in the developer role, further compounded by tech companies’ increased migration to cloud infrastructure. And within organizations, a lack of foundational knowledge and formal company training is creating discrepancies in how development methodologies are being applied.

With developer expectations and skills evolving, Agile development methodology is more relevant than ever thanks to its adaptive nature and flexible, iterative processes. Company leadership must internalize this fact and put formal practices in place to standardize methodologies within their organizations. By doing so, leaders can arm developers with the tools they need to embrace rapidly changing development standards and methods—and retain top IT talent in a high-turnover marketplace.

Changing Developer Roles Bring new Possibilities and Challenges

The pandemic profoundly accelerated the need for remote-based work structures, and with employees physically placing out of the office, many organizations began a much higher priority on their migrations to cloud-based infrastructure—both physical and organizational. This push placed a huge burden on development teams to move organizational and project data to Cloud infrastructure at faster-than-normal rates. For IT professionals, the pandemic-triggered disaster response has accelerated a permanent migration to the cloud as a way to safeguard access to digital infrastructure and processes. For developers specifically, this migration triggered many teams to embrace infrastructure-as-code (IaC).

IaC is a core DevOps practice that allows for infrastructure (like networks, cloud services and virtual machines) to be constructed and managed through code instead of manual processes. This means that developers are changing writing the actual infrastructure their software runs on, which has game-advantages for automation, traceability and reliability—and impacts virtually all DevOps. With no one in the office to perform administrative and operational IT work, IaC is particularly useful. But since developers must have the necessary technical skills to write this infrastructure in addition to their traditional code, IaC has created a gray area where developers are also becoming IT operators and systems designers.

The shift to IaC has evolved standards for developers, and it requires a higher level of flexibility within development teams and companies as a whole. Adopting IaC goes hand-in-hand with strengthening and refining Agile processes because creating standardized Agile practices enables not just greater agility, but also more accurate visibility—both necessary capabilities as staffing models evolve and the roles of developers and IT operators become more intertwined. But company leaders can position their development teams to succeed in this changing tech landscape and reap the benefits of increased collaboration and efficiency that IaC and cloud-based technologies provide.

3 Key Ways Leadership Can Support Development Teams

The role of development teams is changing fast, and leaders must keep pace to retain IT talent and safeguard the health of their organizations. With that in mind, here are three ways you can support your development teams as they navigate changing development standards.

  1. Standardize best practices. Even within a single organization or a single development methodology, go-to practices can vary among IT and development professionals. To successfully execute Agile, teams must have standardized best practices to ensure consistency in foundational knowledge. Agile’s iterative processes can lead to useful shorthand and improvisation, but only if developers are working from the same set of methodology standards and solid foundational knowledge.
  2. Increase commitments to formalized training—especially for new hires. To fully benefit from Agile’s capabilities, all employees must have foundational knowledge of its processes—especially new hires. Provide formal education and training on industry-accepted Agile standards to eliminate skills gaps and cultivate institutional knowledge within your organization. Institutional knowledge ensures that quality standards are well-defined and achievable, ultimately strengthening the collaborative capabilities of your development teams.
  1. Prioritize measures to decrease burnout. The pandemic shed light on burnout across industries, and the IT/tech world was no exception. It’s up to leadership to implement tangible measures aimed at reducing employee burnout—like managing realistic workloads, allowing for flexible working schedules and implementing policies that encourage work-life balance. Consistent standards lead to meaningful reporting, which ensures accurate measurement of team performance and workload.

Preparing for Future Evolutions

Remote work isn’t going anywhere, and companies that fail to embrace remote-based technologies risk employee flight and obsolescence. As development methodologies evolve to accommodate the pandemic-triggered challenges and IT hiring gaps, the developer role will continue to change. In five to 10 years, it will look much different than how it looks today and companies must be willing to embrace these changes to ensure the success of their IT and development teams.

Agile development methodology was designed to adapt to rapid technological innovation and organizational change. The shift to remote work and the IaC revolution is the futureand it’s here. These forces are driving hybridized development methodologies that serve the new standards they impose. Embracing these changes is an organizational imperative, and by committing to standardized knowledge within your development teams, you can retain your top IT talent—and ensure your teams are poised and ready to meet these new challenges.

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