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How to attract and retain Java software developers

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When it comes to enterprise applications, Java is consistently a top choice, writes Paul Gray, practice head: delivery management: Java at DVT. Yet finding Java developers can be a massive headache for CIOs as it is one of the most difficult jobs to fill. So the question is how do we attract and hold onto these gems?
In days gone by, programming was viewed as a dark art and for the most part, developers were put in a corner and expected to ‘create’ systems and computer programs, a business expense that most companies paid grudgingly. Fast forward to the here and now: Java software developers have become so integral that putting them in a corner makes no business sense.
These accomplished and smart people have a lot of knowledge, experience and know-how which, when used to its potential, can be a huge business differentiator. Look at successful companies like Google and LinkedIn, which have become giants in the business world.

The race for talent is on
Organisations that can attract and keep the best talent are the ones that will outperform their competition. This is a well-established fact. Among the larger companies that understand their reliance on technology, an arms race of sorts has ensued.
Instead of building ballistic missiles to destroy the world, they are creating attractive technology environments with the express intent of attracting and retaining the best Java developers.
It’s important to note that these developers are seeking the full package – a company that is staying abreast of technology and also of delivery methodologies and social engineering practices.
Why are there large corporates with deep pockets that are unable to attract and retain good Java development talent? Invariably, you will find that it’s due to old technology or out of date waterfall development practices which exclude the ‘knowledge’ of the knowledge worker until it is too late to benefit from their experience.

Java developers want to see their code in action
The companies that offer the best packages and perks are often lacking when it comes to less tangible rewards like job satisfaction. The knowledge worker of today wants to be involved in the process from as early as possible, to be heard and to allow the development to benefit from their hard earned expertise.
Environments that promote these attitudes are invariably Agile settings, where the very nature of the delivery is centred around people and interactions, and where team members at all levels are given the trust to co-create business applications that deliver value.
Like everyone else, developers want to feel like they’re contributing something useful to the world.

The time to change is now
Many large corporates have been putting off transforming themselves from the large, slow waterfall type companies into lean, agile delivery machines. There could be a host of reasons for this inability to embrace change, but as we all know change is inevitable.
Change either comes from within as an intelligent response to stimuli or it is resisted until change is forced. Sadly, many of those big institutions that refused to change at the prompting of the changing technology landscape now find themselves required to change because of market forces.
In a market where development skills are scarce, those able to attract Java developers will get them and hold onto them, leaving the businesses under-resourced and unable to respond to a rapidly changing business landscape. As a result, they have only one real option – change or become a footnote in history.
We have seen time and time again that there is no such thing as ‘too big to fail’. If businesses are unable to attract and retain the right level of Java developers and other technical resources, they will surely go the way of the dinosaur.
In today’s world, technology underpins and supports business, making it imperative that organisations make the changes required to ensure they create an environment that attracts and retains those very rare, very necessary skills.