If you have underutilized developers, you are doing something wrong

It’s a great time to work in IT, with companies in almost every industry struggling to hire more tech talent. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Demand for Software Developers and Software Engineers is Projected to Increase increase 22% between 2020 and 2030, exceeding the expected average growth rate of 4% for other occupations.

To look at it from another perspective, the US job market currently faces a shortage of 472,000 software engineers, so hiring tech talent is one of the biggest challenges employers clash.

The IT talent gap has been well documented; made headlines before the pandemic forced companies to accelerate digital transformation initiatives. In 2019, CNBC reported that approximately 918,000 IT positions were vacant in companies across all sectors. That number is undoubtedly higher today, with organizations of all kinds increasingly relying on software to work, collaborate, and communicate remotely.

Given this shortage, it seems absurd to think that developers are being underutilized at work. But, unfortunately, in many companies, that is exactly What’s going on. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it might be time to re-evaluate your staffing strategy.

Ensure developers are better utilized

Not all companies with a developer roster “in the bank” are mismanaging talent. For example, some large corporations can afford to keep IT talent on hold for when new initiatives emerge. But if you lead a company with fewer than 200 people on staff but have a surplus of idle developers, you’re doing it. something incorrect (for example, sales, hiring, staffing, assignments).

Failure to maximize employee productivity

Not maximizing employee productivity is bad for business and can lead to anxiety for developers. When these employees see that their skills are not being used on the job, they wonder if they have the right skills. They start to question the quality of your work and whether your billable fees are too expensive.

Needed 66 days to find good developer talent, and is 50% harder to find than other skills and competencies. That person in the bank? They could be doing something more rewarding. If you don’t want to miss out on opportunities or potentially lose talented employees, you’ll need to involve developers who are underutilized at work. Here are some tips:

1. Look inside.

Business owners with a surplus of IT talent should look for opportunities to use their skills. To facilitate this search, a growing number of companies are exploring a relatively new concept: the domestic talent market. This approach enables organizations to connect developers with new opportunities, both internal and external. (After all, many companies are outsourcing the work of developers.) This improves engagement and retention.

Of course, you can also use downtime to improve developer skills and better prepare them for future goals. The world’s leading companies have invested a lot in preparing your workforce for the future, but upgrading skills doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. For example, approximately 73.7% of developers are self-taught, so simply giving them time for self-directed learning can open up new opportunities.

2. Consider cross training programs.

When evaluating your workforce, it is essential to understand that some key skills cannot be quantified as easily as the requirements of a software developer’s job list. The developers you have in your bank are very likely eager to learn (see the previous point) and are probably excellent candidates for managerial and leadership roles with a little soft skills training. Similarly, employees who were not originally hired for a developer position may have the ability to learn basic programming skills.

Implementing a formal cross-training program within your organization could provide your entire team with exciting new opportunities for professional growth.

When deciding who is best suited for internal training programs, focus on the skills you want your employees to have in the near future rather than their past experiences and credentials. Similar to hiring, you’ll want to prioritize ability over qualifications to avoid creating unnecessary barriers to entry for capable employees.

3. Implement new internal initiatives.

You may have heard that Slack was originally developed as an in-house tool for a small gaming business or that YouTube started as an online dating service. While you may not think of the next big breakthrough in technology from a conference room in your office, allowing otherwise idle developers to work on internal projects can open up a world of opportunity. This is true even if those projects fail or they are not immediately profitable for your business.

Time in the bank should never be idle. You should always have internal projects to carry out when timely work is not depleting your resources. Give your developers a framework to join these initiatives, establish a clear path for professional development, and foster an environment that rewards learning.

Now what? Let your developers get to work. Then everyone will feel much better.

Image credit: thisisengineering-raeng; Unsplash; Thanks!

Ross A. McIntyre

Ross A. McIntyre

Strategy Director at Frogslayer

Ross A. McIntyre is Chief Strategy Officer at Frogslayer, a custom software development and digital innovation company that rapidly creates, launches and scales digital products and platforms for clients.


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