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The key aspects to keeping developers motivated

Aaron Annesley
29/06/16
Like musicians or artists, developers are often creative people who alternate between big-picture thinking and pondering over the minuscule details in a heartbeat. Developers want managers who will help them solve business and technical problems, who will offer protection from unnecessary office politics and can also help them meet their personal career goals.

Managers have been trying to inspire programmers since the days of mainframe. One example of this comes from Tom Demarco’s book, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, which suggests that developers are given telephones with ringers that could be turned off to minimise distractions from the warm creative fog in which a creative person can find themselves in – an option still popular today.

Developers are often exceptionally talented individuals who are worth the investment, provided they are happy and engaged in their work and surroundings.

Trust developers to do their jobs

Most content developers truly enjoy what they do — in many cases, web development started as a hobby and evolved into their chosen profession. Managers need to recognise this, but they must also be aware of their team’s abilities – not only does this ensure productivity remains, but it creates a much more positive working environment.

Motivation for a developer will come from within, when posed with a challenge or problem that needs to be solved. Any developer (employee for that matter) worth their weight will have a sense of pride about their work. Every code will be signed with their name, so ultimately let them get on with it.

Ensure their opinion is valued

What is likely to discourage a developer the most is if their opinion is not valued by management. Take the example of a developer who has worked on a project for over a year and knows everything about what they are working on. It can then be incredibly frustrating if a manager makes a decision to change a feature or the user interface if the developer disagrees.

The difference between what developers want and what a product development department wants are often not the same. While a developer’s goal is to build a working app that can be maintained, the product development department may only want software that is functional. The end result is substandard work that the developer can have no pride in creating.

To avoid this, a developer must convince the department that doing things the right way is far more favourable – and has a much higher degree of profitability – than designing something unstable in a short time.

Does money matter?

Developers have a complicated relationship with money as it often comes with the territory. Money is a function of their career choice and this enables them to be picky about whom they work for. Developers need to be paid competitively – if you don’t you can bet there will be somebody that will – but of all the things they look at when choosing where to work, money is unlikely to be the deciding factor, according to The Guardian. Using data from the Office for National Statistics, the newspaper claims job satisfaction is not solely based on salary.

Fundamentally, developers tend to enjoy what they do so keeping them motivated should be a relatively simple task provided their work is engaging and valued.
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