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What motivates software developers more than money?

Keeping software developers happy, engaged and motivated is something that every software development company thrives to achieve.

It’s easier said than done, right? Those who believe that money motivates all will be surprised. Because increased performance less likely links to financial gain in the developer world.

The best way to find out what truly motivates software developers – just ask them. Various surveys and studies have shown that the financial benefits of being developer are an important factor of people wanting to learn and grow in this industry. Nevertheless, it was never the main factor. Don’t take my word for it, here is an example of Michael, the developer/blogger who has more than 10 years of experience in this industry and shares his point of view about his motivation in his coding spot blog: “13 Things that Keep Us Motivated as Software Engineers“.

One of the biggest platforms Stack Overflow, where all of the worlds software developers meet, conducted a survey of 88,883 software developers from 179 countries around the world participating in it. Developers were asked about their most important job factors and results showed that more important than the money for software developers is the technologies, frameworks, languages that they work with, as well as, office environment or company culture and flexibility.

software developers


It’s clear that in the biggest world’s software engineers community most motivating factors are not the money. Of course, it’s important. But in most cases, it’s not the key factor for developers when choosing to work for one company or another. We also have our thoughts and recommendations for your developer’s team motivation system. Here are 5 things that give software engineers higher purpose working in this industry and creates a desire to expand their knowledge than a bigger paycheck.


Autonomy – mastery – purpose

software developers


The feeling that you are in control of your own choices. Self-determined work brings far more sustainable and awesome value to the company and developer. Doing things that you enjoy and practicing them naturally means that you’ll become better.  We like to see our selves getting better. This drive often leads to bigger projects that have potential on the global impact. Also, if we work that you are doing has a meaningful purpose, a goal. Then you more likely to have a desire to join the party and stay late. A “transcendent purpose” makes coming in to work better for you and also helps to maintain the talent at the said workplace.

The need for autonomy, mastery, or purpose. Autonomy – is the need to direct your own life and work. Mastery – is the desire to improve. Purpose – those who have a specific goal and believe that they are working toward something larger and more important than themselves are often the most hard-working, productive and engaged. For some more background, check out D. H. Pink’s TED talk about the theory of puzzle of motivation which is drawn from research undertaken by psychologists Harry Harlow and Edward Deci in 1971.

The video is great and extremely informative to watch, but if you don’t have the time. The gist of it is that humans are not motivated economically toward self-actualization (as widely believed). But are instead driven by three motivating factors. The desire to control one’s own work, the desire to get better at things, and the desire to work toward some goal beyond showing up for 40 hours per week and collecting a paycheck.

For more in-depth information about this motivation model benefits and implementation, check out Philipp Hauer’s blog – How to motivate a team of software engineers.


Having Exceptional Management


Sometimes, we find ourselves in positions of influence in the company. It usually happens for seniors, tech leads, and team leaders. You will find yourself in important meetings where you can steer the company’s fate in one direction or the other. But let’s not forget that with the power comes great responsibility.

Being a team lead or senior is not easy. Sometimes you will find yourself in difficult situations when the product development tries to shorten the schedule. Obviously this kind of situations will require quick decision making and willingness to take a bullet for the team.

Both for projects and people, solid management, is a must-have motivation factor. This means no micro-managing, the encouragement of independent thinking, knowing what it takes to build quality software. It creates loyalty and trust between the developer and their senior team lead. This results in motivated developers but also insanely good software.


Flexible paths to career growth


From a developers perspective, relying primarily on one’s current employer to provide opportunities or a clear career path is a thing of the past. It’s understandable that the best options for career growth, professional satisfaction, and job security reside in building skills and experiences that make the individual highly valued.

Interestingly, career stagnation is not an issue; 88% of people increasingly believe that it’s okay to stay in the same job role – as long as there is still an opportunity to develop and learn new things.

The big promotion that cuts developers creative process might be the thing that makes a great engineer quit. A good engineer isn’t a good manager by default. Many developers aren’t interested in leadership positions, just because they do not want to manage others. They just want to keep building fascinating things.

That doesn’t mean that software engineers don’t want to lead the team. It’s because the leadership position might be different than expected. Giving developers space and support to grow while being creative in options that you provide. It’s not necessary to force them away from the creative process unless they want to follow that path themselves.


Healthy challengessoftware developers



The software engineering profession is full of challenges, unlike some other professions. Solving a bug, creating big applications in a short time, developing algorithms that seem impossible is extremely challenging. However, most dedicated engineers who love what they do feels the excitement and urge to perform well when they feel challenged.

It is important to acknowledge the types of productive challenges that uplift and motivate software developers and which demotivates them. For example, providing the developer with a challenge that will require all of his knowledge, plus some more learning to complete it successfully – that’s a good challenge. Dropping a big and poorly-scoped project to the engineer’s lap, and adding an impossible deadline — not a good challenge. It’s important to know that there’s never going to be a software that is perfect the way it is on the scheduled end date. There is always room for improvement.


Recognition for contributions and achievements of the software developers


When a software developer is making a significant contribution to any projects that he participates in and moves an organization forward, it’s certainly important that those contributions are recognized. Usually, most people think that software engineers are introverts and they do not care about public recognition for their excellent work or have problems communicating with people. That is indeed a wrong stereotype about developers.

It’s true that some software engineers are introverted — but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in being recognized for their hard work. Everyone deserves to know that their work is appreciated.

Find a way to show everyone on your team how much you and the organization value their contributions. Depending on the size of your organization, it might seem extremely daunting, or even impossible to do this, but it’s not.

The goal is to encourage and empower the expression of developers appreciation for all the great work that is happening around everyone daily. It just takes some creative thinking but it’s sure worth it!


Work and life balance


Nowadays most of the modern IT companies recognize the importance of work-life balance. Having this practice in your office is essential. It does affect the everyday well-being of developers and has many great benefits on their work performance. Some of the recognized benefits of a healthy work-life balance include:

  • Improved health and mindset
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction
  • More time to pursue personal goals and hobbies
  • Greater focus and concentration o the task in hand
  • Reduced stress at work and home

Management needs to start listening more carefully when developers describe what they like and dislike about their jobs. In fact, a company’s most important asset is the energy and loyalty of its people. Unlike machines and factories, can quit and go to work for your competition. To have a solid trust and respect with software developers and keep high levels of retention, you must first know the hearts and minds of your employees.


Ending notes


Boosting the developer’s motivation is a must. Improving the work environment and your project management skills will increase your software engineering team’s spirit and profoundly impact their performance.

My recommendation is to recognize that providing enough freedom for creativity will generate more opportunities for progress towards happy and motivated developers. When you tackle motivation, increased project success and business prosperity will surely follow.


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