So, how do software engineers get motivated?
Given how stressful this line of work is, occasional lack of motivation and productivity might be brought on by fatigue or even developer burnout syndrome. Motivation is also directly related to the workplace environment. Increasing the amount of pressure and micromanaging is not a solution.
Who works productively? The one who is satisfied.
Software engineers are creatives who frequently work under pressure and are vulnerable to burnout. To flourish, they need to solve challenging problems in a positive environment which promotes experimentation and learning from mistakes (not punishing for them).
That’s one thing. Recognition, work-life balance, and competitive compensations are another examples.
Based on our experience, we've compiled 18 suggestions for motivating developers without putting them under additional pressure but rather by making the workplace more supportive and positively challenging.
Let’s take a closer look on how to motivate software engineers.
1. Build positive and supportive work environment
Some stress may be beneficial, but most likely during development the stress level of your software development team will exceed the healthy amount and go straight to a level which will be detrimental to everyone’s morale.
Stress can slowly build up from many different small conflicts and can lead to software engineer burnout, so it would be best to keep an eye on those and resolve them before they even begin. This requires a patience and good social skills. It yields the additional benefit of not only motivating your development team, but also saving time on pointless bigger conflicts, which are stopped before they have the chance to grow.
Build an environment that is supportive, inclusive, and conducive to well-being and happiness - the one that promotes well-being and happiness among developers.
How to build positive work environment and help developers avoid stress?
- Ensure flexible work schedule - offer flexible working hours, the option to work remotely, and support for taking time off when needed, to help developers achieve a healthy work-life balance.
- Promote collaborative team culture - encourage team members to openly share their ideas and work together to solve problems.
- Encourage experimentation - make sure that in your development team no one is afraid to experiment and make mistakes.
- Promote healthy habits - offer support for things like physical activity or stress management.
- Regularly assess the work environment - address any potential sources of stress or negativity, such as unrealistic expectations, lack of communication, or inadequate resources.
- Provide regular feedback and support - offer mentoring or coaching, provide opportunities for career growth and development, which can help developers to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
These factors will help to make development teams feel more comfortable, supported, and motivated, which can ultimately improve their performance and satisfaction. Get your development team motivated!
2. Show appreciation for hard work and achievements
Let your employees feel needed, let them feel you appreciate their effort and cannot wait to see what other things they can achieve. Feed their need for good self esteem with your words and watch them became more optimistic and energetic.
For this to work you need to do it on regular basis and be convincing in your speech and body language. This skill can be learned through practice. Always chose the parts of your employees’ work which actually deserve praise, so you won’t seem dishonest when you appreciate his or her work. When possible try to praise them in public, which will further enhance the results and will feel like a reward.
Recognizing and rewarding achievements shows developers that their efforts are valued and appreciated by the organization. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Give rewards - include bonuses or awards for completing a particularly challenging project. This simple trick may backfire in one way, however: if you make the rules according to which the reward will be awarded unclear or seemingly unfair. Everyone should have more or less an equal shot at getting the prize, so have this in mind when you are deciding on all the details of the competition.
- Promote your developers - move developers into more senior roles or give them additional responsibilities, as a way of recognizing their growth and achievement.
- Provide public recognition - call out a developer's hard work or achievements at team meetings, or in other public forums, such as a company-wide newsletter or email.
- Say thank you for a job well done - thank developers personally or in public forums, such as team meetings, for their hard work and achievements.
- Recognize the unique skills and expertise of each team member - highlight the individual strengths and contributions of each developer, and acknowledge their expertise and experience.
- Make sure they feel valued and appreciated - provide opportunities for career growth and development, offer support and resources for well-being.
Find ways to show developers that their hard work and achievements are valued and appreciated by the organization. This can help to create a motivational work environment, where developers feel encouraged to continue putting in their best effort. It will increase the team's productivity so your developers will be able to continue producing quality work.
3. Foster the culture of growth and learning
Foster a sense of continuous learning and improvement, and provide support and resources for developers to acquire new skills, knowledge, and perspectives. Provide regular opportunities for learning and growth for your dev team, and create a supportive and inclusive work environment that encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing. Allow developers to continually increase their skills and advance their careers.
A company can create a culture of learning, growth, and knowledge sharing in several ways, including:
- Provide support for professional development - offer in-house training on new technologies, programming languages, or development methods. Provide access to external training programs or certification courses. Offer mentoring or other support for professional development, and providing opportunities for career advancement or leadership roles.
- Offer training budget - provide your team members with specific budget devoted for courses, trainings, or events they’d like to attend.
- Give access to new technologies - give developers the opportunity to work with the latest technologies and software, or to experiment with new tools and techniques.
- Offer challenging projects - give developers the chance to work on complex, high-visibility, or cutting-edge projects.
- Encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing - promote a culture of collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing, and foster a sense of community and support among team members.
- Invest in learning and development resources - provide access to online courses, training materials, books, or other resources that can help developers to acquire new skills and knowledge.
- Create a positive and inclusive work environment - foster a sense of collaboration, respect, and inclusivity, and promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Provide developers with the resources and support they need to continue growing and learning in their careers. Build an environment that supports and encourages learning, growth, and knowledge sharing among developers.
4. Cultivate a sense of ownership
Allow developers to take control of their own work and make decisions that impact their projects and careers.
- Give developers the freedom to choose their own projects or methods of working - allow developers to select the projects they want to work on, or to choose the tools and techniques they want to use.
- Provide clear objectives and goals - set specific and achievable goals for each project or task, and regularly review progress against those goals. Appreciate efforts and small steps towards them.
- Encourage innovation and experimentation - provide support and resources to try new ideas or approaches. Promote creative thinking and problem-solving attitude.
- Avoid micromanaging - on the contrary - encourage your dev team to take responsibility for the effects of their work. Mentor them and provide help when needed, but allow them to individually choose the path to achieving their goals. Don’t cut creativity. Create a sense of autonomy that leads to better performance.
- Foster the culture of trust - don’t check every step your developers make. Allow them to make decisions on their own, and be there to consult if they need it. They'll give their all if you give them room to feel trusted.
5. Provide regular feedback and support
Provide your development team with regular feedback and opportunity to receive help and guidance when needed.
You can do it by including:
- One-on-one meetings with you as a team leader - discuss with developers their progress, challenges, and goals.
- Mentoring programs - pair developers with more experienced mentors, who can provide guidance and support on technical, professional, and personal development.
- Express gratitude - most programmers will feel motivated after receiving positive feedback and feeling you're grateful for their effort.
Help developers to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Create a sense of support and community within the team.
6. Make work-life balance a priority
Developers are prone on work extra hours in order to finish tasks included in particular sprint. You need to control that, especially when your development team works from home. Show that the company values their well-being and wants them to have a healthy and satisfying life outside of work.
- Offer flexible hours - allow developers to set their own work schedules, within certain parameters, or to adjust their hours to accommodate personal commitments.
- Allow work from home - give developers the option to work from home on a regular basis.
- Support time off - provide paid time off for vacation, personal, or medical reasons. Encourage developers to use that time to recharge and refresh.
- Provide help with focusing when needed - in some cases it may become hard to focus when working from home. Don’t punish your developers for that - show understanding and provide them professional help of coaches or psychologists.
- Offer flexible benefits - provide a range of benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, or education assistance.
- Support work-life integration - offer support for things like childcare, transportation, or personal development, which can help developers to manage their work and personal lives more effectively.
- Promote healthy habits - offer support for things like physical activity, healthy eating, or stress management.
Provide support and resources to help developers achieve a healthy and satisfying work-life balance. This will help to reduce stress, improve morale, and increase motivation.
7. Encourage collaboration and teamwork
Help developers from your team to work together to achieve common goals, share knowledge and ideas, and learn from each other.
- Organize team-building activities - organize team meetings, social events, or charity projects to foster a sense of community within the team.
- Provide opportunities for cross-functional collaboration - give developers the chance to work with other teams or departments, such as design, product, or marketing, which can help to build a more holistic understanding of the business.
- Promote a culture of sharing knowledge and ideas - create meetings or channels for developers to share their experiences, challenges, and solutions, and encourage them to seek feedback and support from their peers.
8. Clearly communicate expectations and goals
Developers need to know what is expected of them and understand how their work fits into the broader objectives of the organization. Thats another one of ways to motivate a software development team.
- Setting measurable, achievable, realistic goals, like KPIs - define clear end objectives for each project or task, and regularly review the progress.
- Inspire innovation with OKRs - think what you want to change or where you want to be with your team in the next 6 months, and set OKRs to keep track on that.
- Provide regular updates and progress reports - share information about the status of projects, key milestones, and potential challenges or obstacles. Involve developers in the decision-making and problem-solving process.
- Encourage open communication and feedback - create channels for developers to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, and regularly meet with them to learn about their issues and expectations.
- Provide documentation - create project plans, specifications, and other materials that outline the scope, objectives, and timelines for each project or task.
- Use visual aids - create charts, diagrams, or other visual aids that help developers to understand complex concepts, interdependencies, or processes more easily.
- Use tools - use project management software, collaboration tools, or communication platforms to share information and updates with developers in real-time.
Everyone on the same page about specifications
The worst case scenario is that you may have different members of the team working against each other, being sure they are the one who adhere to the original vision of the project and are opposing those who had changed it. You may waste a lot of time having someone working on a piece of software which will be discarded afterward, and this will totally disrupt the whole workflow.
It is critical to make sure everyone understands your visions completely and there are no parts of it that can be interpreted in various ways. This requires you to create a coherent vision and have an ability to share it. This is a critical trait for a leader who wants to motivate a development team and it is your responsibility to learn to do it right.
8. Provide the right tools and resources
Do everything to allow your developers to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
- Ensure that developers have access to the latest technology- provide the latest software and tools that are necessary for developers’ work, and regularly update these resources to keep pace with industry changes.
- Ensure they have all the hardware they need - especially when they work from home, make sure your developers have all the equipment needed to do their work effectively and comfortably.
9. Provide autonomy and decision-making power
Autonomy and decision-making power is an important motivator. It can help to create a sense of control and ownership, which can be highly motivating for developers, and finally lead to better performance.
However, it’s important to strike a balance, as too much autonomy can lead to confusion or lack of direction, and too little - to frustration and lack of engagement. Provide clear guidance and support for your development team and try to involve developers in decision-making processes, to ensure that they have the information and resources needed to succeed.
As a leader, you can provide decision-making power to software developers in several ways:
- Give developers the freedom to select methods of working and choose preferable ways of achieving goals - and on the way, be a mentor and provide support.
- Encourage innovation and experimentation - provide support and resources to try new ideas or approaches, rewarding creative thinking.
- Foster the culture of learning from mistakes - make sure your developers aren’t afraid to act from fear of making a mistake. Encourage them to trying and learning from mistakes.
- Involve developers in decision-making processes - consult your team on key decisions, such as project priorities, resource allocation, or process improvements. Involve them in discussions and problem-solving sessions.
10. Offer competitive compensation and benefits
Show developers that they are valued and appreciated by giving them competitive salaries, bonuses, and other incentives, as well as providing a comprehensive benefits package that meets the needs of team members.
Offer competitive benefits to software developers like:
- Provide competitive salaries and bonuses - conduct regular salary surveys to ensure that developer compensation is competitive with other companies in the industry.
- Offer a range of benefits: provide a range of benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or education assistance, that can be customized to fit each developer's individual needs and preferences.
- Provide support for work-life balance - offer flexible hours, the option to work from home, or support for taking time off when needed, to help developers achieve a healthy work-life balance.
- Invest in professional development - provide support for continuing education and professional development, such as training programs, certification courses, or mentoring, to help developers grow and advance their careers.
11. Foster a culture of innovation and creativity
Start with providing resources and support for research and development, as well as encouraging team members to think outside the box and take risks.
How to create such culture?
- Encourage experimentation and risk-taking - provide support and resources for developers to try new ideas or approaches, and encourage them to challenge assumptions and think outside the box. Make sure they’re not afraid of making a mistake.
- Reward creative thinking and problem-solving approach - recognize developers who come up with new or creative solutions to challenges, and provide opportunities for them to share their ideas and experiences with others.
- Provide support for professional development - provide training and mentoring for professional development, which can help developers to acquire new skills, knowledge, or perspectives.
- Create a collaborative and inclusive work environment - promote a culture of collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing, which can help developers to work together more effectively and to learn from each other.
- Organize hackathons - they provide a creative and energizing environment to experiment, learn, and solve problems in a team. They can also provide opportunities for developers to learn new skills, try out new technologies, or explore new ideas.
12. Get to know your software development team
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You need to spend the time to get to know them individually and have a good understanding of what they can and cannot do.
Let your team operate according to their strengths, assign tasks to them in which they can excel and you will have not only your task completed faster and better, but also a motivated development team. They will see that you understand them and will feel noticed and needed for what they have to offer.
- Regularly check the satisfaction of each team member - create a monthly survey or schedule one-on-one meetings with team members.
- Try using tools that check preferences of each team member - there are various tools that analyze our preferences in the workplace. Consider using a test or analysis to map the dynamics of your team.
- Talk to them on one-on-ones to learn about their preferences - schedule a monthly or quarterly meeting with each team member, ask them about their preferences, and encourage them to share their thought and doubts.
- Encourage various team integrations - everyone is different, so don’t push each team member to participate in team integrations, rather look for various options and try to find something for everyone.
13. Lead by example
If you don’t show that you care, no one will. Show some enthusiasm for the project. Never abandon your team. Don’t go home early or procrastinate at work. You may feel tempted to do so, you are the big boss after all, but employees will notice. Employees will remember.
People generally don’t respect those who can’t meet their own standards, why would they? If you want to motivate a team successfully, you need to set bar high by your own example. There are no shortcuts.
You, as a leader, can lead by example in several ways, including:
- Demonstrating a strong work ethic - do your best, show up on time, be engaged, try to meet deadlines and keep promises, and strive to achieving goals.
- Maintaining a positive attitude - stay positive even in the face of challenges or setbacks,be open and approachable to team members.
- Providing support, guidance, and feedback - offer support, mentoring, or other resources to help team members grow and improve. Provide regular feedback and recognition for their work.
- Leading by doing - be hands-on, take on challenging projects, and work alongside team members to set an example for others to follow
- Respecting your developers' time - try to avoid unnecessary meetings.
It's important to be consistent and authentic in leading by example, and to be open to feedback and learning from others.
14. Accept and promote employee ideas
So you have a good pipeline which will take your product to completion in no time! This is great! But no matter how good your work plan is, it can be improved. And the ones who can do it the best are the people using it in their daily work.
Even the greatest plan should be corrected during its implementation phase and yours is no different. So instead of opposing your team’s ideas, embrace them. Not only will you make them feel empowered, but you will also get a better workflow, and this will further boost productivity.
- Value individual perspectives and expertise of each team member.
- Provide support and resources for developers to share their ideas and contribute to decision-making.
Benefits of motivating software engineers the right way
There are several benefits of motivating your development team in the positive environment of trust, instead of micromanaging them and increasing the pressure:
Improved performance and satisfaction among software developers
Most developers who feel valued, supported, and empowered are more likely to be motivated and engaged, and to contribute their best work. This can lead to better business outcomes, such as increased productivity, creativity, and innovation.
Increased retention and loyalty among software developers
Developers who are satisfied with their work environment and opportunities for growth are more likely to remain with the company and to be committed to its success. This can help to reduce turnover and recruitment costs, and can improve the overall stability and success of the development team.
Increased productivity and innovation of a development team
Companies that foster a positive and inclusive work culture, and that provide support and resources for professional development, are more likely to attract and retain top talent, and to foster a culture of innovation and creativity. This can lead to increased productivity and innovation, and can ultimately help the company to grow and succeed.
Summary - how to motivate developers?
- Foster a culture of innovation and creativity - encourage and support experimentation, risk-taking, and outside-the-box thinking.
- Support work-life balance - offer flexible hours, remote work, time off when needed.
- Offer opportunities for personal and professional growth - provide trainings, mentoring, training funds, opportunities for career advancement.
- Create a positive and inclusive work environment - promote collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing.
- Provide recognition and rewards - recognize team members for their achievements, contributions, and milestones.
- Provide the right tools and resources - from the right hardware to do their job efficiently, to the newest software and tools.
- Offer competitive compensation and benefits - perform salary reviews, offer bonuses and benefits fitted to each team member’s needs.
- Provide clear communication and goals - set clear expectations, provide regular feedback and support, ensure that everyone is working towards common goals and understands the business context of them.
- Lead by example - set a positive example, lead by doing rather than by telling.
- Accept and promote employees' ideas - recognize and value unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise of individual team members.
- Provide opportunities for innovation - support experimentation and learning from mistakes, as well as risk-taking and outside-the-box-thinking. Organize hackathons.
- Cultivate a culture of ownership - empower them to take responsibility and own the way to achieving their goals.
- Encourage autonomy and decision-making power - give your developers just enough power to take responsibility and experiment.
- Build a culture of trust - allow your developers to make decisions on their own and be there to consult if they need it.
- Provide regular feedback - foster the culture of feedback, organize one-on-ones with your developers regularly.
Increased motivation and engagement lead to improved performance and satisfaction. Developers will feel valued, supported, and empowered. They will be more likely to remain with the company and to contribute their best work. This can ultimately lead to better business outcomes and improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.