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Five Ways To Keep Your Dev Team Motivated

Published Mar 26, 2018 by Ashley Harpp

 

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A recent study showed that 71% of US workers would compromise on salary for the right benefits, company, culture, and career growth opportunities.

In another, 33% of professionals selected, “I’m bored and need a new challenge“ as their motivation for moving on to another job.

What motivates a person to be excited about work each day cannot be condensed into a single aspect that can be checked off each month, like handing out a paycheck. These studies show that fair compensation is not the only contributor to having happy and motivated employees. It’s not that money isn’t important - this is of course how we take care of ourselves and provide for our families. But it’s becoming clear that money is no longer the driving factor in why web developers decide to stay or leave a job.

In order to retain talent, leaders need new ways to motivate developers. What can you do as a business owner, team lead, or senior level employee to keep your development team motivated to do their best work each day?

Here are 5 strategies (that don’t involve a bigger paycheck) to re-energize your development team every day.

 

1. Talk to them

One of the best indicators to determine how happy your engineers are is to ask them yourself. In the tech world, there are countless benefits that a company could give to make a role appealing, but if you’re offering the wrong benefits for your team, then no one is happy. For example, childcare benefits for a team of childless developers isn’t going to boost employee satisfaction. The simplest way to discover what makes your developers tick is to ask the right questions.

Quarterly or monthly 1-on-1 meetings with leadership is a great way to understand how motivated your team feels. Here are a few questions you could ask a developer to gauge how motivated and satisfied they are:

  1. How did you feel about your last project? What went wrong and what went well?
  2. How do you feel about your current project? Is there anything blocking you? If so, how often does that happen?
  3. What would you like to work on next?
  4. Is there a new skill or language you’d like to learn?
  5. What can I do to help you grow in this role? Do you feel like you’ve peaked at this position?
  6. If you could change one part of our process what would it be?

The answers to these questions will provide a lot of context, and some of the answers may surprise you. But importantly, don’t let their thoughts fall on deaf ears. If you truly want to motivate them, you have to take how they feel seriously, and if possible make changes to your process. Create an environment where your developers can share their opinions without consequence.

 

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2. Life balance

What type of culture does your company promote?

And what type of culture does your company have in reality?

Work-life balance isn’t just a fancy buzzword; it really affects developer motivation and there are statistics that support it. 60% of women and 48% of men rate work-life balance and well-being as “very important” in a new job.

One obstacle that can become venom to healthy work-life balance is vigorous deadlines. No one wants to be stuck working hours of overtime to meet an unrealistic deadline. Work is important and there are jobs to be done. But how can you meet deadlines without stressing out your developers in the process? There is no definite answer to this but there are ways to minimize pressure and encourage a more balanced approach.

Try to base project estimates on what your developers can do in a true 40-hour workweek rather than when they are working extra hours. While working long hours may help meet the deadline, studies show that people are less effective at their job when this becomes a habit. Research shows that employee output drops sharply after a 50-hour workweek, and productivity drops even lower after 55 hours.

Save time by testing proactively. A solid testing environment helps developers catch code issues early. It’s much more efficient to test and resolve issues on-the-go, instead of at the end of development. This also eliminates pressure by preventing bugs post launch.

When developers aren’t constantly worried about meeting unrealistic deadlines, they can go home satisfied and come back to work well rested and motivated for work the next day. Time away from the office or computer can even help provide the space they need to figure out a complex coding problem that stumped them the day before. After all, who hasn’t had an epiphany in the shower?

There’s no single way to master work life balance, but you can set your developers up for success by giving them all the tools and breathing room they need to be motivated to do their best work.

 

3. Recognition and appreciation

When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58% of respondents replied “Give recognition”.

Working on a project that you feel passionate about is fun, but having someone acknowledge your efforts can be the best motivation to keep powering through. It’s no wonder that 69% of employees said they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. We thrive on acknowledgement and feeling that we are contributing to the desired outcome.

One mistake some team leads make is thinking that showing recognition requires too much effort. But you don’t have to call a meeting each time someone does great work. You can acknowledge them in different ways, and companies like Bonusly make this even easier to do. Bonusly allows teams to hand out “micro-bonuses” and connects to Slack to make public appreciation a habit, not a chore.

You can show appreciation by sending them swag items or a handwritten card from a team lead or the CEO, if possible. Don’t miss opportunities to acknowledge great work by overthinking how to show appreciation to those who deserve it.

If you’re still short on ideas, you could survey your company to see how they like to be recognized. Recognition is linked with job motivation and increased employee morale. It creates an emotional connection with your employees and the company. Developers who feel appreciated and valued will have reason to be motivated because they know others are depending on them.

 

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4. Self investment

If work has become routine for your dev team then try to figure out a way to change the scenery. Allowing developers the time to grow and improve their craft will enable them to try their new skills on the next project.

  • Sponsoring a meetup can help stir the motivation of your dev team. Meeting other developers working with similar technologies can be a source of inspiration, and a needed break from routine work days.
  • Allow them the freedom to contribute to developer communities they care about, like open source technology. The goal is to keep their passion burning, and one of the best ways to do that is to encourage learning and creativity.
  • Professional development budgets offer a great return on investment. Not only will your developers be motivated to continue learning, they will bring those new skills back to the team.

Could your company participate in a Hack Week? Some companies use Hack Weeks to give their developers ultimate freedom to work on what they’re truly passionate about. Dropbox does this each year and often rave about how it helps their team focus on big ideas.

 

5. Encourage exploration

Instead of forcing rules because it’s “what we’ve always done”, encourage your developers to explore different workflows that may be more productive for the team. Technology is always changing, and the most impactful innovations help people become more intentional and efficient with their time.

Don’t be afraid if an experiment fails. Consider the experiment an investment in the long-term success of your company. This is not an excuse to remove all the rules, but it does give them an opportunity to test and explore new ways of doing things.

An ongoing process

Keeping your team motivated isn’t easy. It’s a process that never ends and requires daily effort. But by taking these tips into consideration you’ll be one step closer to having a team that’s satisfied and excited to go to work each day.

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