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Staff retention: what can (and should) a CTO do?

Companies, and CTOs in particular, spend a lot of time and effort in developing their developers and engineers. RecWorks has asked the following questions:

Why do developers and engineers leave companies?

What, if anything, can a CTO do to retain talent?

Thanks to all who gave us their views. This is a summary of what we were told:

It’s not all about better money. Pay is only part of the reason why people move to new teams. Bigger drivers are often:

  • Frustration with the work
    • For example, when teams are agile in name but not in practice
    • When there is lack of career progression, personal challenge or personal development
  • A sense of unfairness
    • Being expected to put in extra hours as a routine
    • Feeling unvalued
  • Lack of team spirit
    • Where team members are treated differently, with some being in an inner circle, and others kept uninformed
    • Growing from an awareness that people in the team are paid differently for similar work
    • If some members of the team are disengaged and not pulling their weight

Developers are less likely to leave a team when work is satisfying, rewarding and enjoyable. They like to be led effectively, be inspired to work to the very highest standards, to be well managed and to feel valued.

If you are a new CTO who is keen to build and retain a strong and effective team, the following points are worth considering:

  • Develop a team where it is easy for you to hear what your developers are thinking. If there are irritations that you can do something about, then make changes where you can and be open when you can’t change things.
  • Be as fair as you can be to every member of your team.
  • Make work as enjoyable, varied and challenging as possible. If you have a large team with clearly defined roles, you might try:
    • Company hackathons. Once or twice a year let the developers work on whatever project they like in whatever tech they want, not necessarily relevant to the company at all
    • Regular team learning sessions
    • Setting up training budgets for each developer, which can also be used to attend conferences
    • Allowing time for greenfield pet projects. (Maintaining a list of annoyances/tedious-tasks can provide ideas for projects)
  • Make sure you know what developers are paid in other companies, and develop a pay structure in your team that is as fair as possible.


  • Sometimes it is best to let a developer go. Sometimes the challenges they need can only be provided elsewhere.
  • If you need to pay a developer extra to retain them until a specific project is completed, don’t expect this to be a long-term fix. Once a developer has decided they would be better off somewhere else, for whatever reason, they are unlikely to stay with you for long
  • If you persuade a developer to stay by promising to change the way some things are done in your team, or by offering more opportunities, make sure you follow through, or they will be moving on

RecWorks can help CTOs build a strong team. If you’d like to know more detail about anything mentioned here, please get in touch. We can also give professional and impartial insights into the level of pay developers and engineers might expect to get elsewhere, to help you make sure you have got your pay structure right. And of course, if you are filling a vacancy, we’ll do our best to find you the right developer or engineer to join your team.

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