Keeping Your Millennial Job-Hoppers: Improving Employee Retention Among Software Developers

By: Jessica Thomason | Jan 24, 2018 |  Agile Transformation,  Article,  Leadership

Keep your Millennial software developers engaged in your organization and improve your overall employee retention

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth of employment opportunities for Software Developers from 2016 to 2026 is 24 percent. When you consider that the average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent, you begin to realize that software development as an industry is growing much faster than other industries—meaning developers have a lot of options when it comes to where they can work. So how can organizations improve employee retention and keep good developers from running away to one of their competitors?

Who Is Today’s Workforce?

In recent years, Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 2000) have quickly become the majority of the American workforce. Today, they make up a huge percentage of software development roles. When Payscale looked at the median age of workers in 32 technology companies, they found that only 6 companies had a median age of 35 years or older.

It’s time to face the truth: We have to consider the needs and desires of this new generation of talent if we expect to attract and keep the best of them in our organizations. A 2015 survey by Boston College identifies the top reasons why Millennials consider leaving their jobs:

  1. To make more money
  2. To move forward in their careers
  3. To pursue work that is more aligned with their passions
  4. To have more flexibility/better work-life balance.

Seems pretty reasonable, right? So why does employee retention seem so difficult to maintain when it comes to keeping Millennial employees?

As it turns out, 50% of Millennials would consider another job opportunity even if they weren’t actively looking to leave their current employer. In the rapidly expanding tech world, job opportunities for Millennial developers are plentiful, and it can be hard to shut down curiosity, claim company loyalty, and look the other way. Gallup reports that 21% of Millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-Millennials.

Unfortunately, the secret to employee retention among developers is about more than simply increasing their pay—that isn’t great for your company and likely won’t be enough to stop your developers from accepting a shiny, new job offer. A better approach is to begin shifting your company towards a Millennial-friendly culture. This sounds simple on paper, but the implementation of these ideas can be challenging.

How Agile Can Help Shift Company Culture To A More Millennial-Friendly Environment

When companies set out to adopt Agile, they often find that a culture shift is necessary if they truly want to reap the full benefits of an Agile transformation. Inadvertently, they also end up creating a setting for Millennials to thrive, a place that puts their priorities of work-life balance, autonomy, and a chance to get ahead in their careers first. Here are a few ways Agile helps impact a company’s culture for the better:

1. Alignment and Collaboration

An important factor in employee satisfaction is an understanding of the organization’s endgame. When leaders clearly communicate their values, goals, and strategies, it gives employees a lens through which to view their work, and by extension, to make decisions regarding their work. When leaders fail to articulate these things, employees lack a framework to build expectations around. Beyond that, they lose sight of how their work contributes to larger company goals.

One of the twelve principles of Agile is “Collaboration between the business stakeholders and developers throughout the project”. All parties involved in the creation of a product should be aligned around a central vision and goal. To truly reach alignment, this communication has to go beyond a one-and-done kick-off meeting. Leaders and developers need to have an open line of communication and should constantly check in with one another to ensure that they are still on the same page.

In Scrum (one of several Agile frameworks), that level of alignment is achieved through a regular cadence of events that can help to build positive communication habits and instill collaboration into the culture of teams and organizations. Gone are the days of loyal employees who were content with following orders and “doing their job”. Today’s Millennial employees are looking for a greater sense of their role in the organization’s larger goals, giving them a better chance at finding that drive and passion for their job.

2. Empowerment of the Team

You don’t hire good people just to tell them what to do with their days. Micromanaging stifles creativity and is one of the biggest contributors to employee attrition. You hire good people because they bring innovative ideas and skilled execution. In fact, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace 2017 Report shows that 60% of participants say that the ability to do what they do best is very important to their overall job satisfaction.

Developers—and employees in general—crave some level of autonomy, an opportunity to flex their skills without micromanagement from supervisors. Giving your developers the space to make decisions about their work within the scope of their organization’s goals allows them to feel more connected to the team and the larger organization.

This doesn’t mean that employees are running wild. It means that managers are now playing more of a supporting role to developers, providing feedback and aid when asked, as opposed to simply assigning tasks and evaluating performance. A little trust goes a long way when it comes to keeping your employees!

Transparency between the organization, management, and developers allows empowerment at each level of a company. In an Agile environment, team members have the ability to choose tasks to complete based on that task’s priority, set by the leaders and developers as a team.

3. Focus on Continuous Improvement

When companies invest in their people, they’re investing in their future as an organization. Employees who feel they are continuously improving and that there is a path for growth in place within their company are more likely to stay loyal to their employers.

Snack Nation recently released their 2017 State of Workplace Culture Report, which shows that employees with a lot of growth opportunity report being happier at work. In fact, 61% of respondents say they feel more engaged at work when they’re being positively challenged. It makes sense: No one likes to feel stuck. People want room to grow and the support to do so. In order to improve employee retention long-term, organizations need to encourage and provide the space for personal growth.

Continuous improvement is highly valued in an Agile culture. While this certainly applies to the software being built, it also applies to organizational structure and individual growth. When the focus is learning and growing from mistakes, rather than hard repercussions, employees are less timid when it comes to speaking their minds or offering new ideas. They’re also more likely to report a feeling a personal growth from their role.


The cost of disengagement is very real. Disengagement costs in America are estimated to be upwards of $450 billion throughout various industries. The good news is there’s a lot of opportunity to decrease that number.

As Gallup points out, highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged employees are showing up and producing higher quality work as a direct result of their environment. High turnover organizations are also seeing a dramatic decrease in turnover rates—a full 24% lower.

A shift in organizational culture is largely to thank for this. Every day, more companies are beginning to realize the value of investing in their employees and improving employee retention as opposed to simply trying to find new ones.


Read more on Millennials in the workplace in our other article, Millennials and The 9-5: 18 Statistics Important to Attracting And Retaining Millennial Talent.

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