A happy software developer is a more productive developer, and a developer more likely to stay with your company for the long term. There’s no question that morale and productivity are strongly interlinked. The question is, what steps do you need to take as a team lead, manager, or entrepreneur, to keep those developers happy?
What Developers Need
These important features can ensure your team of software developers stays happy for as long as possible:
- The right culture fit. Every software developer wants to work in a brand whose culture and values matches their own. Naturally, whatever culture you choose to develop, you won’t be able to attract everyone. For example, some developers will prefer a lax, calming environment, while others will prefer an energetic, competitive one. The key is to stand firm on developing a culture for your business, then actively look for candidates who want to be a part of that culture. Everything starts with the scouting and interviewing phase; if someone disagrees with your culture or has different work values, they may not be worth hiring and retaining.
- A comfortable environment. Every developer wants somewhere comfortable to work, where they have an opportunity to do their best. Part of this means investing in the right equipment; every workspace should be decked out with machines and equipment that developers need to get their job done efficiently. Another part of this means paying close attention to your environment; more ergonomic furniture, more entertainment in the breakroom, and something distinctive like a fireplace or mantel can make your employees excited about coming to the office. Little touches, like artwork, music, and calming scents, can also add up to make a big impact.
- Reasonable work-life balance. While there may be some developers who like the idea of working 80-hour weeks and staying at the office overnight to finish a big project, the vast majority are going to strive for a healthier work-life balance. As their employer, if you want to keep morale high, you need to respect that work-life balance. Allow time for breaks throughout the day and for vacations throughout the year. If you ask your employees to burn the midnight oil, working overtime to meet a tight deadline, make sure they’re adequately rewarded, and make sure you’re not being this demanding consistently.
- Ongoing learning opportunities. Programming is a field undergoing constant evolution and development. If your developers care about their work, they’re going to want to be on the forefront of all these latest pieces of knowledge and ideas. You can keep morale high by giving them more opportunities to learn these new skills and ideas, whether that’s allowing them to attend lectures and meetups in the industry or bringing someone in to train the team on something new. You could even subsidize classes where your developers can learn new skills.
- Room to grow. Nobody likes to stay stagnant in a job for too long, especially if they’re constantly improving their skills and gaining experience. To keep morale high, you need to give your developers a runway for ongoing growth. That growth can manifest in different forms, depending on what your developers are most interested in attaining. For example, you might grant more room for your existing developers to become managers, team leaders, or directors. You could also instate a directive that rewards your developers with periodic raises or bonuses, as a monetary incentive for continued growth and loyalty.
- Chances to express their opinions (and feel heard). Developers don’t want to feel like they exist only to execute lines of code. They want to feel like their opinions matter and are heard. Providing opportunities for your developers to express their thoughts, and truly listening to them, is imperative to keep morale high. That means having individual sit-downs with all your developers regularly, and encouraging employees to speak up when they have a new insight or idea in group settings, like meetings.
- Autonomy (to an extent). Some research suggests that the most important element of an employee’s job to their long-term happiness is autonomy. In other words, employees want to feel like they have some degree of control and authority over their own work. Depending on the nature of your organization, this may be hard to pull off, but try to give your developers as much freedom and power as possible.
Creating the Perfect Environment
There isn’t a single environment that’s “perfect” for all developers. Different companies and different individuals are going to have different preferences. Some of these principles will apply to almost everyone, but others are going to require forethought and tweaking before you roll them out to your own team. Remain flexible, and keep making iterative improvements; eventually, you’ll find a “sweet spot” for your own team’s morale.