2 key motivators to attract & retain top software developers

2 key motivators to attract & retain top software developers2 key motivators to attract & retain top software developers

Talented software developers are the lifeblood of software companies and are key to their success. However, attracting and retaining these talents is tougher now than it’s ever been! And the shortage keeps getting bigger as the demand following the ever-increasing opportunities in the digital sector far exceeds the current supply of talents.

Therefore, software companies have to consider talent attraction & retention as one of their top priorities. A common way these companies are tackling this challenge is by focusing on compensation and perks. But while foosball tables, chefs and massage rooms can certainly contribute to create a great work environment, these are not the top reasons why talents would want to come and stay at your company.

During my years working for McKinsey Solutions, the digital division of McKinsey & Company with a hiring ratio of 1%, I had the opportunity to collaborate with many top talents and could therefore learn about the motivational factors that mattered most to them. These factors were so powerful that many of these talents even relocated in order to take advantage of the opportunity to work there. Here are these 2 key motivators.

Interesting challenges

The first important factor is related to work passion. After all, these people wouldn’t be so talented if they weren’t highly passionate about their work in the first place. As such, you have to make sure that you provide them with interesting work challenges.

Not all companies face the same magnitude of challenges as McKinsey Solutions or top tech companies, but you’d be very surprised how being creative on this topic can take you far regarding talent attraction & retention. The business you’re in isn’t the most exciting? Maybe you have very interesting engineering challenges to tackle, such as security, scalability and performance, so make sure to mention it in your job offers and during the interview process. All you have is a legacy codebase to maintain? Maybe you can start a small pilot project using cutting edge technologies to migrate the portion of the codebase that would bring the most value to your clients and your company. Or maybe you can bring back the “R” of “R&D” by allowing your teams to freely experiment using new technologies, which would not only help with talent attraction & retention but also with innovation and competitiveness. What other creative ways can you think of?

Smart and passionate colleagues

The second important factor consists in giving the opportunity to work with smart and passionate colleagues. So, during the interview, make sure to mention the great team you have to get the candidate excited at the idea of meeting them and learning from them.

This isn’t a chicken and egg situation: use the first factor explained above to attract your first talents and they’ll take their talent network with them. Like-minded people tend to hang around together and just like money attracts money, talent attracts talent. You don’t even need to provide costly incentives and bonuses for referrals. My colleagues at McKinsey Solutions told their friends about the exciting stuff they were doing at work and how interesting their colleagues were, and soon enough HR managers had CVs of top talent on their desks without even asking.


Being given an interesting challenge to tackle and the right colleagues to tackle it with is the best incentive of all.

And while not all companies need stellar talent, every company can significantly benefit from recruiting people that are higher on the talent spectrum. After all, who wouldn’t want to ship better software, faster?