Developer Motivation and Satisfaction

Photo by pdam2

I've been to lots of management trainings, each new company feels the urge to send me to a several days workshop. One of the topics in each of those workshops is employee motivation and satisfaction.

But after years I reckoned developers do not need to be motitvated, they are motivated when they start working - otherwise you wouldn't have hired them, would you? They are actively demotivated. Companies need to stop demotivating them. The Harvard Management Update writes:

Most companies have it all wrong. They don't have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them. The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees' morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward.

On to job satisfaction which is linked to motivation. The economy is recovering, I get more calls from head hunters. Head hunters are the angst of many IT-managers, because you lose your best to them. Losing a good developer is intrinsically connected to developer statisfaction and motivation. Motivated developers are satisfied. Satisfied developers won't go with head hunters.

There are four stages of developer - and employee - satisfaction:

  1. Satisfied and motivated
  2. Passive, undecided
  3. Passive, will react to headhunters and good offers
  4. Activly seeks a new position

Satisfaction levels can easily fall, there are a myriad of reasons. Maybe the biggest reason being demotivated at your job. If your company demotivates developers, with

  • Technical reasons like no recent hardware, inadequate tools and a frustrating enviroment. I've written about those in 7 Bad Signs not to Work for a Software Company or Startup
  • Micro-Management and drowning creativity
  • Not listening to them
  • From the above quoted article in the Harvard Business Update:

    Excessive levels of required approvals, endless paperwork, insufficient training, failure to communicate, infrequent delegation of authority, and a lack of a credible vision contribute to employees' frustration.

no wonder satisfaction goes out of the door. Sometimes those 4 levels of satisfaction can be seen in public and are general phases in a company live. Everyone moving to Google (1). Then people who get snatched from Yahoo by Google (3). Then people are leaving (4). Amazon has lots of ex-amazoners, people have been leaving Google, and of course Yahoo.

As a developer, in which stage are you? As a manager you should have a clear understanding of the stages in your company and in which one your developers are. Misunderstanding employee satisfaction makes your company vulnerable to head hunters. Stop demotivating!

Stephan Schmidt Administrator
CTO Coach , svese
Stephan is a CTO coach. He has been a coder since the early 80s, has founded several startups and worked in small and large companies as CTO. After he sold his latest startup he took up CTO coaching. He can be found on LinkedIn or follow him in Twitter.
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