"Delivering uncommon results in software culture"

Developer Shortages in Kansas City

Do you know what the current ratio of open software developer positions to developers is here in Kansas City?


It's roughly 4:1


Ask any recruiter. In fact, ask any developer who is polled 3 times a week by those same recruiters. 


The problem: Companies struggle daily to find and retain good developers. They spend phenomenal amounts of time and money addressing this critical key to their success. And this is having the following marketplace effects:



Developers are naming their price…

Even the mediocre ones. This also happened right about Y2K, but after the work dried up and the world didn't come to an end, the marketplace found some equilibrium. Supply and demand regulate this. It's not complicated, but Kansas City companies all seem to be spending enormous amounts of time dealing with chasing and poaching talent as opposed to addressing the shortage. 


Good developers leave – Bad ones stay…

Good developers are able to move with the biggest financial punch for their work-week. Mediocre developers stagnate and stay – forcing companies to stay at a particular level of technology and incur technical debt. HR departments (and IT  for that matter) continue to favor this model because from their perspective, they are keeping "loyal" employees. 


Current HR/IT models are causing more pain…

They fail to understand IT as an industry and continue to look at software developers as commodities. They see IT work as task driven fence-posting instead of 21st century knowledge work – work that requires daily learning on the job in order to maintain marketplace relevance. No other field changes this quickly. Companies are using outdated HR and management hiring techniques to catch new staff, and as a result, they are becoming seriously uncompetitive. 


Developers are choosing where they would like to work…

The good news: Employers have to be very careful about how they treat their (software development) employees. The old employer business-as-usual models of transactional "it-all-pays-the-same", "butts-in-seats-staffing" or waiting for the marketplace to change – have failed. But many employers are refusing to adapt and listen to the advice of good developers.


Old Employer "Bait" is failing… 

Pay scale and benefits: the two biggest business-as-usual attractors are being trumped by work aspects that are attractive to developers. Companies whose culture appears more "mature" to developers are creating marketplace attractor status. Those companies who are still stuck in their work-hard cultures over work-smart cultures are losing. IT managers who favor the former, are instrumental in driving off their best talent but are very successful in generating more work. 


Culture is being affected by developers…

The other good news? Developers actually have more power than they believe in being able to "culture hack" their organizations. If companies want to retain good talent, they may be forced to listen to their developers and give up their "just-get-it-done" imaginary cold-war factory approach to marketplace competition. If developers are wanting to work in more Agile, less stodgy; more "mature" – less obsolete work environments, the marketplace will force organizations to change in order to attract the best talent. 



Companies with large budgets to meet this marketplace shortage all end up poaching from one another. This doesn't solve the shortage. Developers talk. They know the good companies to work for and the ones with misaligned Software Culture. 


Best Places to work…

You know what would be interesting? Some developer driven assessment of the best IT departments to work in Kansas City. It could have a technology component, a culture component, a leadership component and other developer intangibles not usually measured by traditional HR. 


Conversely, it might be just as valuable to the marketplace to identify the 10 worst places to work… That might hurt some feelings but Developers already know the list. It might, however, shake things up a bit to talk about it and create some serious change. 

About the Author
I’ve had the good fortune to travel and work internationally. I’ve also had the good fortune to have grown up in New Zealand and have lived the American “immigrant experience” for more than half of my life. I’ve also had an unorthodox musical journey that led me to and kept me in Kansas City. Music, IT and travel became partners along the way helping me appreciate multiple worldviews and the concepts of cross-disciplinary approaches to life and work. My non-conventional experiences reflect my meanderings about this interesting occupational field. The beauty of having been in IT for 30 years is that our solutions become predictably cyclic while our problems remain the same. Culture is a topic I’m rather obsessive about. I firmly believe that it will help to usher in a renaissance in American business – oddly enough in the hands of IT.
  1. Michael J. Combest Reply

    It has been my experience, from working in, with or for companies that have “cultural problems” internally, that they also have trouble connecting with their customer as well. I feel there is a direct correlation between the internal and external customer. What has been your experience in IT?

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