4 Tips for Keeping Your Development Team Happy
The tech industry has a reputation for being fast-paced. Sometimes it’s hard not to get whiplash from the revolving door of new advancements. While a constant evolution in capabilities is exciting, a persistent revolving door involving employees isn’t.
With talent shortages and fierce competition for skilled tech workers, employee retention strategies are moving into the limelight. Leaders are discovering there isn’t a single solution to getting team members to stick around. While offering good salaries and decent benefits is part of the answer, financial incentives usually don’t make unhappy people stay.
Like most workers, developers need a compelling reason to commit to an organization. Unlike some industries, work in IT calls for a unique blend of technical and interpersonal competence. Software development Projects also require the ability to switch gears from solo tasks to collaborative brainstorming sessions. These dynamics create scenarios where managers have to work harder to keep their teams happy. Below are four tips for doing so.
1. Set a Realistic Pace
What happens when you keep hurrying around day to day, trying to get everything done on a big to-do list? You eventually have to take a step back for a few days to recover. As much as humans like to think they can keep going at full throttle, they face physical limitations.
Likewise, your software developers risk burning out if they’re always rushed to get things done. Continually setting ambitious timelines or asking for flawless delivery of multiple projects within a short period isn’t realistic. You’re assuming there won’t be any bumps in the road and that employees can keep working like robots.
Developers are likely to feel the pressure and get the impression their individual needs don’t matter. When leaders set more realistic performance expectations, team members can better balance organizational and personal demands. They’ll pick up the pace when it’s really urgent but have time to breathe when they’re not facing emergencies.
By letting your group know it’s OK not to go full-throttle all the time, you’ll create a more positive environment. Encourage developers to focus on quality versus quantity, explore interests, and work on solutions to known problems. They’ll feel less like a cog in the machine and more like people who can make a difference and contribute value.
2. Let Employees Control Their Work
Steve Jobs famously said that organizations shouldn’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. Instead, smart people should be telling businesses what to do. All too often this doesn’t happen, however. Whether it’s because of rigid processes or pressure from the top, micromanagement is something many leaders are guilty of.
Watching every move your team makes and offering unsolicited small suggestions along the way can lower morale. Your intention may be to help or ensure a quality outcome. But your developers will begin to think you don’t have faith in their abilities. That perceived lack of confidence in developers’ competence can motivate them to look for another job.
Before they do, your team members’ performance could become influenced by the Pygmalion Effect. If you believe and act like your employees aren’t capable, their output will likely match your perceptions. Your team will come to expect less of themselves and feel more negative about working on projects. They may even perceive they’re being set up to fail and start to disengage from the outcome.
To promote engagement, let employees run the show. Have them determine the work’s direction and involve them in decisions. Be there to support the team when they ask for help, but give them enough creative license. You don’t want developers to feel stifled or like their suggestions are unwanted.
3. Invest in Relevant Tools
Any developer is going to throw up their hands if they don’t have the necessary tools to do their job. Imagine asking a technician to replace a computer’s motherboard without a screwdriver. It would be nearly impossible to get the damaged circuitry out of the case and the replacement board in. When employees struggle to perform the most basic tasks, they become discouraged.
Those feelings might start out as momentary irritation, but they’ll grow to resentment and dissatisfaction over time. When you discover you don’t have the tools and resources to do something, you look for ways to compensate. Making up for a lack of resources in organizations that don’t supply them often means shelving projects or cutting corners.
Investing in the tools developers request isn’t just a smart business practice. It also lets team members know you’re willing to listen to their input and set them up for success. It doesn’t make sense to create obstacles for employees who want to deliver quality results. If the group doesn’t have the workstations and applications to do that, they’ll gladly go to companies that provide enough support.
4. Show Your Appreciation
Staff members who don’t feel heard, seen, or recognized are more likely to become disengaged and leave. Research shows that nearly half of employees will go elsewhere if they aren’t receiving recognition or appreciation for their work. In contrast, workers who receive regular rewards for good performance are eight times more likely to stay engaged.
You can show your developers that you appreciate their contributions in numerous ways. You could write a simple thank-you note or make a private acknowledgment. Recognition can also come in the form of rewards or public mentions in team meetings. Some developers might prefer extra vacation time, while others want a bonus or leadership opportunities. The important thing is to make them feel they matter to you and the organization.
Retaining employees in the tech world is a challenge. Solid pay and benefits might cause your developers to pause before looking at outside opportunities. But that hesitation won’t last long if the work environment feels restrictive and unsupportive. Realistic expectations, autonomy, proper tools, and appreciation will have more impact on whether team members stay.