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January 13, 2022

Why do developers switch jobs?
byRichard MuirinAnalysis

During the 21st edition of our Developer Nation survey we asked professional developers what – if anything – would make them switch jobs. It turns out many developers know their worth. Just one in ten developers say that nothing would make them leave their current employer. You can also share your input and participate in our more recent survey to answer this and other interesting questions.

It looks like the majority of developers are financially motivated, either in the form of higher compensation and/or an improved benefits package. Half of developers would switch employers for higher compensation and a third would switch jobs for an improved benefits package. Nearly two-thirds selected either option. 

However, this means that just over a third of developers have motivations that extend beyond immediate financial reward. When we remove the two-thirds of developers who said that increased compensation or better benefits would incentivise them to move, career advancement and broadening skills take the top two spots. This shows that developers are hungry to learn and to progress – these are also important factors for developers who could be tempted by financial rewards. 

Money talks for half of developers

Around one in five developers state that a better company culture would be a tempting reason to switch employers. However, while you could negotiate better incentives and more perks and benefits, company culture is harder to influence. There are well documented issues with culture in software development. There have been several high profile cases of discriminatory working environments in the last few years, and many software developers are no strangers to long hours, especially as a project nears completion. 

Remote working 

Software development has historically been a pioneering industry for remote working. The pandemic has likely made this especially salient. Not surprisingly, around a quarter could be tempted to move by a remote position. Just over one in eight would move in order to relocate. 

Eastern European developers are the most concerned with compensation

Are you perhaps based in Eastern Europe? Developers there are the most concerned with increasing their salary. Nearly seven in ten say that this would make them switch employers. The close geographical proximity to richer Western European countries likely makes depressed salaries in this region feel particularly unfair. For these underpaid developers in Eastern Europe, an upgraded benefits package won’t cut the mustard; instead other factors are more important:

  • broadening skills (50%), 
  • taking a more challenging role (32%), or
  • relocation (22%). 

It seems that Eastern European developers are taking a longer-term look at their finances and possibly considering uprooting their lives for an increased chance of success.

Developers in North America seem the happiest at their current jobs

14% of devs in N.America said that nothing would make them switch. As with most regions, higher compensation is the most tempting option; half of developers here selected this. These developers are much less likely than average to select career advancement, broadening skills, or taking on a more challenging role as reasons for moving. By and large, North American developers appear to be satisfied with their professional lives. For those who would be tempted to move, higher compensation is mentioned as a reason by three in five. 

Culture also matters in China

For Chinese developers, compensation is also important. Three in five developers here selected this option, the second-highest of any region. In comparison with their Eastern European counterparts, however, Chinese developers were almost twice as likely to say that a better benefits package would tempt them to move. This said, although financial motivations are important for developers in Greater China, they are some of the most likely to select ‘softer’ benefits such as better company culture, working environments, or shorter commutes. Reports of the Chinese government taking steps to reduce the ‘996’ working culture prevalent in many tech organisations in the country may well make these factors less of an issue in the future.

Developers in Greater China are less likely to say that remote or flexible working would tempt them to switch employers. Such flexibility is more highly valued by developers in Eastern Europe or North America. It’s likely that the pandemic’s effect on working culture has affected different regions in different ways. For instance, developers in North America may well be used to working from home after more than a year of doing so, and with Eastern Europe already an established outsourcing destination, remote work is more likely to be salient for developers here. On the other hand, developers in regions that may have limited opportunities to offer are more likely to see remote working as a door opener to the global labour market. More than one in three developers in the Middle East and Africa and 30% of developers in South America, for example, would switch jobs for a remote role.

Eastern European developers feel underpaid

Experienced developers are the most content in their jobs 

Around one in six of those with 16 or more years of experience say that nothing would make them move. This group is also the most financially-motivated, with over half saying that higher compensation may tempt them to move. As developers gain experience, they know better which roles they want to take. With managerial positions often forming an artificial ceiling, some experienced developers will want to stay closer to the code. 

Here is something important to consider: Career advancement and taking on a more challenging role both peak for developers with three to five years under their belts. A well-timed change at this point in a developer’s career can have a large impact on their future earnings and professional success. At three to five years of experience, many developers are beginning to feel established and comfortable in their skills, so a challenging opportunity can often provide a catalyst for future success.    

There are many reasons why a developer may choose to switch jobs, and whilst it’s impossible to ignore the impact of compensation, other factors play an important role, especially as the role of work in our lives continues to evolve. We are capturing these and other interesting facts that make tech giants shift their strategies in our Developer Nation Surveys. Raise your voice and shape the future.

Compensation becomes more important as developers gain experience
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