4 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Software Development Talent

With the unemployment rate for software developers at a near-record low, government agencies find themselves competing with the private sector for sought-after tech talent. While public sector agencies may not be able to compete with their corporate brethren when it comes to salaries, they can still win the talent competition by creating an environment developers love. 

Here are four strategies to make that happen. 

Focus on developer satisfaction

According to a recent survey, most developers mentioned: “wanting to work with new technologies” as a top career goal for 2022. The open source community is the primary source for these “new technologies.” It’s where popular programming languages and tools that make it easier for developers to create code and produce high-quality work are born. 

Open source acts as a force multiplier for government projects. Developers can customize their technology stacks, share and contribute code flexibly, experiment with and learn new techniques, and build and deliver applications faster. 

The Defense Department’s (DoD) Platform One program is a great example of the power of open source. With Platform One, DoD re-engineered its approach to software development, giving developers the open source tools they need to accelerate production and ship code faster. With this program, the DoD evolved into an open source organization.

Build a collaborative culture

Encourage and propagate the collaborative nature of open source within your own organization by giving developers the time and space necessary to immerse themselves in the community. Allow them to use the knowledge they glean from working with the larger group to produce solutions that will improve development processes and efficiencies that benefit your constituents. Then, let them share their work with the community to propel further innovation.

Gartner calls this “innersourcing” — the use of open source principles for internal development and sharing of software assets. The practice infuses a culture of knowledge-sharing built through open source technologies and practices — exactly what software developers are looking for.

Moreover, embrace remote work, agile software development practices and other approaches that optimize collaboration and flexibility, the ideal state of flow and balance that every developer craves. 

Remove distractions, friction and fragmentation

Open source developers also cherish the ability to work autonomously, which helps them feel ownership over their work. Unfortunately, distractions take a little joy out of that work by preventing them from being able to produce and ship code and applications in an agile and productive manner.

Focus on providing new and current developers with tools that remove distractions and allow them to focus. Use open source solutions to integrate and extend toolsets and provide developers with complete visibility and control over the entire set. 

Integration also helps mitigate fragmentation and productivity-killing context switching, which can breed frustration and workplace discontent. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to a recent Mattermost survey of development teams cited fragmented tools as their top productivity challenge. That’s not surprising; it’s tough to get into a good development flow when everyone’s using different tools that don’t work well together. 

Build and cultivate a diverse team

Building a diverse and inclusive team representative of individuals from different backgrounds isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good sense from a software development perspective. A more diverse development team means more perspectives and ideas, which are valuable for organizations that want to stay ahead of the technology curve. Open source communities have long represented and respected the importance of diversity, too. 

Hiring is only one part of building and cultivating a diverse team. It’s also important to ensure those team members’ ideas and opinions are heard and considered. Developer-centric organizations give loud and explicit support to all team members – especially those who are underrepresented. Since developers aren’t always the most vocal group, it’s important to amplify their voices.

By following these guidelines, you can begin building what Gartner refers to as an Employee Value Proposition (EVP), based on open source principles, and not become one of the 90% of organizations without an EVP struggling to retain and hire talent. Instead, you’ll have created a workplace where they can innovate, forge connections, experience growth, and make a positive impact on themselves and citizens across the U.S.

Barry Duplantis is the Vice President of Customer Success at Mattermost

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