Retain Your DevOps Talent Amidst a Growing Labor Shortage

Here are some tips for nurturing your current employees into top-level DevOps talent that wants to stick around.

The global economy is short about 40 million skilled workers. And, if the trend continues, the talent shortage could reach 85.2 million workers and cost businesses an estimated $8.4 trillion in revenue by 2030.

Tech talent, especially DevOps practitioners, are front and center in this labor shortage. More than 60% of worldwide organizations are recruiting for these roles now or in the near future. And technology trends like digital transformation and cloud migration will continue to increase the demand for these positions.

Organizations typically prefer hiring mid- to senior-level DevOps practitioners, but these individuals are hard to come by, not to mention expensive. So, organizations are better off nurturing their current employees.

Here are meaningful ways organizations can work towards retaining their DevOps talent:

Upskill juniors

People want to learn new skills. I see this eagerness to learn in my team and across the tech industry. I also see what happens when organizations don’t upskill eager junior engineers or promote internal talent. Employees feel bored or stagnant, and they take off searching for new, exciting opportunities. And who can blame them?

Instead of watching your employees flee, set up training programs so they see a path for growth within your organization. Of course, the working world is largely remote now and pulling off successful training is much more challenging than it used to be. But it’s worth figuring out how to train remotely for the loyalty gained from your workforce.

You can also set new hires up for success by keeping a master list of tools and resources your team uses and encouraging employees to add their own notes about functionality, tricks for navigation and pain points. Also, build a culture where your people, especially your juniors, feel free to ask questions. Set aside time to talk through problems as a team and make these meetings fluid and flexible. Sometimes questions are pointed, making for short, sweet meetings and sometimes these meetings morph into deeper working sessions. Either way, teammates will learn to rely on one another for knowledge and support.

Reduce burnout

When things go south, many people on my team immediately want to throw on their capes and chase down the problem until it’s fixed and the system is improved. I certainly value these team members and want to encourage their quest for new challenges. But I also recognize that tech burnout is real, and I actively work to curtail it.

We group employees with different skills on our on-call teams. This means, when there’s an outage, we don’t have to involve the rest of the team. And, because we adopt a culture of training, trust and collaboration, employees know they can rely on one another. As a result, they can sit out of an outage without anxiety or FOMO.

We have another team rule to combat burnout: employees on an on-call shift are only responsible for on-call issues like tech debt, outages and emergency assistance. By focusing on just these issues, team members aren’t distracted by or stressed over other projects.

We all fail — this is something I don’t think tech teams hear nearly enough. When something goes off the rails, normalize it by talking about the problem after the fact. And then make sure everyone leaves with a lesson from that failure.

Simplify work

Make your team’s work lives easier by implementing an effective monitoring and observability platform. This technology can create order from chaos, helping teams instantly see what’s happening within systems and notifying them when something is amiss.

With automated monitoring, teams can concentrate on their tasks instead of feeling plagued by the dread that they missed some business-impacting issue. Or, worse, manually checking systems over and over again. Although the direct effect of reduced toil is a more productive, more joyful workforce, the workforce mentality also benefits from the reduced mean time to recovery (MTTR) and improved service-level agreements (SLA) that well-implemented monitoring and observability deliver.

Keep it human

As a society, we’re still grappling with the mental and physical effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t take each team members’ situation lightly, both inside and outside of work. After all, the people on the other side of your screen are human beings. And according to McKinsey, being treated like a human being — feeling valued and having a sense of belonging — is the most important thing for today’s workers.

Like training, creating a strong team culture in a remote environment can be tricky and requires different tactics than it did two years ago. I build time into our workdays for my team to connect. I strike up conversations in Slack channels (the sillier, the better), circulate articles that resonate with people’s interests (gardening is the current crowd favorite) and kick off most meetings with random chatter. We’ve even hosted movie watch parties via Amazon Prime.

While we should always strive towards a culture of learning, balance and empathy, today’s economy demands it. This culture nurtures the kind of environment where tech talent will feel valued and committed instead of searching around for new challenges or shopping for the highest salary.


Chris Boyd is an experienced Engineering Leader, Observability Fanatic and loves to challenge the status quo. Driven by improving the lives of fellow technologists when working with Observability products, he takes pride in the teams he builds and the innovative solutions they develop together. You may know him from his work as the Direction of Site Reliability Engineering at GoDaddy from their early days to their successful IPO launch. He currently resides in Mesa, AZ, and is VP of Engineering for Moogsoft, a leader in AI and Service Assurance.