“The Great Resignation,” a term for the unprecedented amount of people quitting their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, is a tricky problem for companies to solve. Pew research shows that the nation-wide “quit-rate” reached a 20-year high in November of 2021. Companies are starting to rethink employee experience from first principles.
Luckily, the path is already being laid. Software developers are often the first people to adopt new ways of work, including remote work and digital office tools like Slack. Companies worried about The Great Resignation should look toward what developers, and the forward-thinking software companies that employ them, are doing to create a better employee experience.
From employee experience to developer experience
In recent years, especially as hiring and labor costs rise, more companies have invested in employee experience. Developer experience teams, and the culture and processes they build, promise a significant shift.
Developers are notoriously difficult to hire and expensive to pay and replace. Developers have long been the most expensive salaries on the balance sheet and in an ever-hot job market, they’ve also long been the ones most capable of leaving for greener pastures or greener salaries. According to a CodinGame survey, for example, the average developer considers it relatively easy—a seven on a ten-point scale—to change jobs.
Over the last two years especially, though, as companies rely on their technical talent more and more, all the while expecting them to do and know more with less, developer experience has become both a major risk and a major opportunity.
Every company will be a dev tools company
Developer experience teams create a way for software companies to design and formalize better processes and source new tools. They can then integrate those processes and tools, offer them to other developers, and iterate as further problems and opportunities emerge.
Developers then become internal customers to the developer experience team, meaning that every company with a developer experience team is a dev tools company–but their only customers are themselves.
That benefit won’t always look like building new tools or processes from the ground up. A major role developer experience teams take is the searching, vetting, and sourcing of developer tools from standalone dev tool companies. With a developer experience team, there are clear owners of these dev tools and people in charge of testing them, integrating them, and evaluating them.
The ultimate goal of a developer experience team is to help developers complete their work as efficiently and as happily as possible. Strategies toward that goal include sourcing new tools, improving processes, and fostering a healthy culture.
The era of developer experience is here
More and more companies are hiring for developer experience teams. Startups like Figma, Pinterest, and us at Sourcegraph are hiring in this area, and companies like Twitter and Google have had “engineering effectiveness” and “engineering productivity” teams, respectively, for years.
Research has also born fruit, showing, definitively, that the time for developer experience has come: McKinsey research, for example, shows that companies with the highest developer velocity outperform other companies by four to five times.
As developer experience proves to be a productivity and happiness boon, other companies in other industries will develop their own experience teams, potentially unlocking a new era of employee experience.
An essential part of the developer experience is developer onboarding. To learn more about developer onboarding, and how it extends far beyond a developer’s first week, read Continuous developer onboarding: A guide to cultivating a culture of professional growth in your engineering organization.