Traditionally, the tech industry has been tolerant of engineers and developers who move from one position to another in a short period of time. Unemployment in software engineering and development stays steadily below the national average; allowing employees to move from role-to-role, in what would be traditionally long-term positions. But the tides are turning. Alicia Scully, Director of Talener New York, explains that a shift is on the horizon: job-hopping tolerance in tech is waning.
Nap rooms, gourmet coffee bars & in-house massages don’t top the list of perks that keep engineering employees happy and engaged. Scully regularly receives feedback from her candidates – and the echo is resounding: skills & purpose. There is a strong desire to do something meaningful and to be challenged through their tech skills. This includes learning new technologies on-the-job. Tech advances occur so rapidly that it is very easy to fall behind peers if skills are not being mastered and then adapted to the next technology. A stagnant tech stack leads to lack of challenge, lack of learning, and ultimately the opportunity for employees to find a reason to go elsewhere.
“All else equal: salary, perks, location – potential employees will choose the position with the best, or potentially best technology stack for them,” says Scully. “Being challenged, staying technologically relevant, and doing purposeful work are good indicators of employee engagement.”
She explains that sometimes the job-jumping can be explained when an engineer moves from one contract position to another. This has been commonplace in tech organizations; but companies that are just starting to build out internal technology teams may hesitate to hire these types of candidates for permanent positions.
“I’ve been receiving more and more push back from hiring managers about candidates with ‘jumpy’ backgrounds. They are not as open to hire someone with short stints at their jobs,” articulates Scully. To sharpen their skills, an employee needs to feel as if they are learning and producing something useful to them in the short and long-term. All of the unlimited snacks in the world won’t keep an engineer from leaving their role if it doesn’t further their professional skill set.
This shift towards wanting stable employees had spurred increased contract and contract-to-hire positions. By turning the tables, organizations can hire employees without the burdens of a permanent role. And, when they leave their contract – there is no negative ripple effect that occurs with a layoff or termination. Both parties get to test the waters, and there is no obligation on either end to extend the relationship.
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor & Statistics estimated that tenure in professions such as legal, engineering & management was approximately 5.1 years. However, permanent roles can inhibit those who are driven to keep up on new technologies. Companies with legacy software or systems that require maintenance rather than new development may find it hard to retain engineers who thrive on learning new skillsets.
“Only time will really tell if this trend continues,” says Scully. “But the shift towards more contract-based employment seems to be creating a balance that both sides are seeking.”