Employers need to prioritize company culture and embrace flexibility beyond remote working if they hope to keep software teams engaged, say developers.
A survey of more than 2,000 software engineers by Hired found that developers increasingly prioritize employment that promotes healthy work-life balance and a flexible routine that's not centred around the office.
Developers are also being attracted to employers who offer clear opportunities for professional development and career growth, which have become a "must-have in the tech world" and is something employers need to begin paying attention to as they battle it out with rivals over a thinning pool of tech talent.
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The survey formed part of Hired's 2022 State of Software Engineers report, which also included insights into hiring and technology trends based on interview requests and salary data from Hired's platform from January 2020 through December 2021.
Almost all software engineers surveyed said key elements for an ideal work environment were great managers, co-workers they get along with and can learn from, and flexibility around work hours.
"It's no longer enough to simply provide the option to work remotely and avoid a commute. Employers need to embrace flexibility more broadly, providing employees with the freedom to manage their own time and work schedule without the confines of the strict 9-5," said the report.
"Prioritize autonomy before wellness stipends and other perks that are more of a 'nice-to-have' for most."
Endless Zoom calls are also something that developers could do without; having no or very few meetings also featured high in the list of software pros' workplace desirables.
Hired suggested that employers reassess their meeting policy and "take a critical look at which ones are really necessary and what can be done asynchronously instead."
The report added: "Find the right balance of tools to use internally. Software engineers want to be able to easily and efficiently communicate and collaborate with their colleagues in real time – but too many tools are overwhelming and harming their productivity."
The pivot to remote working has intensified demand for developers further as companies expand their talent search beyond major tech hubs.
Hired found that startups are putting pressure on larger companies by offering "compelling pay and benefits to attract and hire top talent", helped by record levels of funding and growth since 2020 and the fact that many are readily set up for remote work.
While developers overwhelmingly want flexibility in their workplace, employers also need to demonstrate that their tech workers can learn new skills within their roles.
Of the developers surveyed, 72.2% of respondents cited new challenges and continuous learning as their biggest career motivator. Likewise, 63% of developers said they enjoy learning new skills, while 57% are concerned that their skills are becoming less relevant as the tech ecosystem evolves rapidly.
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As such, more than half of those surveyed by Hired said it's important to them that employers provide professional development opportunities. Companies should "offer compelling career development opportunities to attract and retain software engineers and ensure they feel adequately challenged in their role," the report said.
Coders also want to see their skills put to use bettering the world, particularly following the events of 2020 and 2021.
Asked about the problems they were most passionate about solving, the most popular response was public health – cited by 12.82% of respondents – followed by education and access to upskilling (12.53%), human collaboration and the future of work (12.52%), global warming and climate issues (11.86%), and lack of economic opportunity and unemployment (11.50%).
"As the COVID-19 pandemic carries on, software engineers continue to feel passionate about solving public health issues with their coding skills," said Hired. "It's a competitive, global job market and skills are the new currency. Upskilling and acquiring the most relevant skills are key to advancing in a career – or entering a new industry – as workers are "reshuffling" and changing jobs at record highs.
"Software engineers want to help level the playing field to provide better access to (non-traditional) education and create new ways of learning."