Developers are burned out, quitting their jobs and creating a crisis for recruiters
Software developers are burned out and looking to get out, and it has those in charge of recruiting tech talent scrambling.
A report from software platform LaunchDarkly revealed that nearly 7 in 10 developers (67%) have left a job due to pressure around minimizing deployment errors or know someone who has.
An overwhelming number of developers believe business leaders need to prioritize simplified development processes, according to the report, with 94% agreeing that internal processes, tools or culture are necessary to their feeling safe about taking risks to deploy updates.
Meanwhile, more than 6 in 10 (61%) say their companies’ cumbersome development processes are barriers to innovation.
Another study, from software firm EDB, found that developers continue to eye their job options even in the face of a possible recession. When asked about their current roles, just under half (46%) said they were very satisfied.
Widespread developer apathy means corporations face an innovation crisis on a global scale, said Theresa Mammarella, a software engineer at Sonatype, a software maker.
“Developers are responsible for more now than ever before,” she pointed out. “As a result of automated build processes and growing speed to market pressures, organizations are cutting back on teams focused on software QA, security and governance, forcing developers to take on those teams’ responsibilities.”
Once primarily originators of code, Mammarella explained, many developers are now responsible for the full software development life cycle, including everything from verifying and fulfilling license obligations to finding and fixing security vulnerabilities — all within a high-pressure, constantly-evolving landscape. “Add in the increasing persistence, sophistication and devastation of cyberattacks, and it’s no wonder that burnout and a mass exodus are growing issues in the development community,” she said.
Modern organizations — and society as a whole — simply cannot function without developers, Mammarella argued.
“A struggling developer community not only puts companies at risk for vulnerabilities and a slowdown in software development, but a slowdown in overall technical innovation,” she said. “Burnout is rampant in open-source communities as well, many of which are the backbone of important software applications and are maintained by volunteers. We need to give developers a break. Now.”
Shailesh Kumar, senior vp of engineering at the productivity software firm ClickUp, believes that for the remainder of the year, retaining and acquiring developer talent will continue to be a challenge for companies. As such, it will be important for employers to continue to stand out and provide incentives for prospects, such as unique challenges, sophisticated tools and competitive salaries.
They will also need to find creative ways to acquire prospects, such as checking user forums and power users on social media, who may not be looking for new roles, Kumar added. “If hiring managers stick to traditional recruitment methods, they will find themselves hard-pressed to acquire the talent that they need,” he said.
Acknowledging the growing problem of burnout, Kumar agreed that it is key for developers to have autonomy over their time at work. At ClickUp, for example, developers are encouraged to block their calendars for deep focus work, where they are able to take time away from notifications and Zoom meetings to actually accomplish their deliverables.
“By providing developers with the room to do their work, when and how they want to do it, we are able to foster a more enterprising culture where individuals can make as much of an impact as they wish,” he said.
Andrés Garzon, CEO of Jobsity, a staff augmentation firm that represents Latin American developers, noted that while many processes in software development are being automated, programmers will continue to be in high demand. The growing legion of companies augmenting their workforce with nearshore developers will continue as the quest for talent persists and as developers continue to leave their current positions in droves, he predicted.
“In the U.S., the shortage is huge right now,” he said, noting that since this May more than 1 million developer jobs have been posted.
Saju Pillai, senior vp of engineering at Kong, an API management and microservice platform, seconded that as more companies embrace remote work, they are becoming more open to hiring developers from global locations.
“Despite the current economic downturn, we are seeing demand for skilled developers increasing in almost all global locations,” he said. “Competitive hiring pressure is consistently driving up pay and benefits for top developers in remote locations. We expect this trend to continue and possibly accelerate as larger companies shift more of their new hiring to global developer markets.”
As for burnout, Pillai cited the lack of high-quality, intra-team communication as a primary cause. “In very many cases, development teams are fully distributed geographically,” he said. “Team forming and relaying goals is much harder to do in a fully remote environment. This leads to a lack of clarity on vision and mission and eventually contributes to burnout.”
Empathetic over-communication is required to break down the fully distributed communications barrier, as Pillai sees it. Kong, for example, prioritizes an inclusive environment with asynchronous communication to support remote teams across time zones.
Pillai added that, whenever possible, companies should encourage in-person team-bonding exercises. “Even meeting the team twice a year will do wonders in the team forming and aligning on vision and mission,” he said. “The onus is on managers to take every opportunity to reduce process friction, increase developer autonomy and drive communications.”
Jason Lengstorf, vp of developer experience at Netlify, a cloud computing firm, agreed that the wave of developer burnout the industry is suffering through isn’t as much about a shortage of talent as it is a lack of support for that talent.
“Developers can’t properly perform if teams aren’t set up to support and grow new hires,” he said, noting that teams are forced to hire only senior-level developers — who are, in fact, hard to find and in high demand — to make up for the lack of structure and support needed by earlier and mid-career developers, who are available for work in record numbers.
“Due to lack of time and information, companies aren’t providing an environment that fosters innovation and growth for their developers,” Lengstorf warned. “If this lack of support continues, the outlook for global developer talent for the rest of 2022 and beyond could be dismal.”