In today’s market, it’s all about software. There is software behind Spotify, behind Smart Windows or inside your car. For start-ups and already successful companies, this means that their products are an output of high-functioning, creative and motivated developers. Without excellent work from them, there is no way the product will be either groundbreaking nor segment leading nor will it provide value to potential users. To put it more drastic: The developers decide if your product will be successful or quickly forgotten. So, the main goal for managers all around is to find the best developers, get them onboard and the most important step: keep them happy and motivated. This leads to the question: How do you ensure happiness and motivation for your developers? Great question, so let’s dive into it.
The first step towards motivating and keeping employees happy is surely also about money. If the money isn’t right, the employee will feel undervalued and leave for a better paying job. They are not to blame for this, after all money rules the world. In order to pay the right wages, you should know and understand the market value of your developer.
There might be some developers who have not yet understood their own market value. As manager, you could use this to offer them less, but you really shouldn’t. It won’t take much time until the developer understands how much he’s really worth and that’s when your relationship is already over. Developers are actively being offered jobs, so you should always pay a competitive wage. Not one Cent less. Of course, most can’t throw money at their employees, there is a budget that needs to be kept in mind. So if no more money can be offered, what else can be done, to improve the personal well-being of the developers?
Use the best available gear. Ever tried to use the first versions of voice-controlled devices that would simply refuse to understand anything you said? Or tried to use a streaming service on an old Computer? Then you know there is nothing more frustrating than slow and outdated tech. So, for the sake of your developer’s state of mind: Please use the newest technology that is available. This really isn’t the right place to start saving money.
Give your developer responsibility. Let them decide what they want to work on and how they are going to do it. Let them call the shots. Of course, some guidance is needed, but don’t make the boundaries for them too narrow. By giving your developers a bit room, they will work more effectively, and your product will improve. Trusting their decisions is not only logical, after all they are the experts when it comes to software, it’s also what you hired them for. Empowering your developers to make their own decisions will not only improve their motivation, it also takes away a big chunk of work for you.
Next up: Deadlines. Setting unrealistic deadlines might be one of the biggest mistakes managers can make. It will have a negative effect on your developers and also on investors, who aren’t really known to be very forgiving when it comes to burning their money. Some might say pressure makes diamonds and that is true, the only problem is you’re not applying pressure to coal but to human beings. There are some that feel motivated and work best under pressure, but that’s not true for all of them. So when setting deadlines, always take the developers opinion into account and work together with them to come to a realistic and achievable conclusion. You want burn downs not burn outs.
Give your developers the opportunity to learn new skills. If you have someone that likes to be challenged, that’s a trait that you should always try to feed. Let them try out a new framework, learn a new coding language and improve their overall skill set, even if it’s something that doesn’t seem to fit into their role or your company in the beginning, it might be exactly what you need in the future. Promoting continuous learning will help your developers to keep their curiosity and a curious mind is a happy one.
One question that often arises for a manager in a workplace is how to treat everyone as fair as possible. Good question and an important one. If you want your developers to run away, just give them unfair evaluations. If you want them to stay, and keep them happy, hold them accountable. Point out where they did an amazing job, but also talk to them about what did not go well. If everyone gets the same treatment, performance reviews can accelerate the workflow and improve the overall atmosphere. So don’t shy away from holding your developers accountable, but make sure you keep things fair and square.
Keep things flexible. You know why some students are better in school than others? Are they smarter? Maybe. More ambitious? Also, maybe. Often they were lucky enough that their own cycle just fits better to school hours, than others. In order to boost motivation and productivity, let your developers choose their hours themselves. Some work best in the morning, some better in the evening and then there are some who work best in the night. Software development is a creative process, don’t kill it by enforcing office hours. Set core hours instead, when everyone needs to be online, so important matters can be discussed. This is one of the strongest arguments for the continuous shift towards asynchronous development including asynchronous dailys.
You see, keeping developers happy and motivated really isn’t sorcery. You don’t necessarily need a ping pong table or a sushi chef at your office, even though this can be a nice addition. Keep your developers involved at all decisions you make and let them have responsibility on their own and you have already taken a big step towards their happiness.