The folks who sit in the corner office, quiet and seemingly introvert are those that maintain your website, create apps, provide support and so on are cut from a different cloth.
Call them developers, geeks, engineers, dev team, programmers or ‘IT guys’. It’s broader if you count devops, network admins, web designers, testers and QA.
Their role and influence is the most rapidly changing in business history. Their skills touch every department or function in some form – from emails, inventory, finance, marketing, HR, security as they all run off software. In fact, with automation, every company is becoming a software company by choice or chance.
However, their priorities, profile is different from a typical employee. Coding is largely a solitary exercise and requires focus. They say coders think binary in 0s and 1s. It’s analytical, logical leaving limited space to socialize (at least in the real world). Communication amongst each other or outside the team is minimal, which affects the work culture. Some of this persona is true. Outside their screens, the need to be accepted, ‘fit in’, and valued is not different from any other role.
Hence, it’s vital for HR and Finance to understand what keeps them ticking or ticks them off. Doing so can make a world of difference to the top and bottomline.
The best snapshot to what developers think comes from Stack Overflow – a site where a staggering 50 million users visit every month to share code, discuss with peers, rave, rant and look for jobs. Of those, an estimated 21 million are professional developers and aspiring grads.
Each year, Stack Overflow conducts an extensive survey1. Over 100,000 developers participated this year to share how they learn, build their careers, what they earn (or want to), what they expect in a job and the values most important to them.
The answers hint at what’s next for technology and can define your workplace. The findings are insightful, telling as they are not unique to a country. Software by nature is globalized with similar tools, process and web-based/mobile.
Key findings from the 2018-17 survey, which just came out:
-90% of respondents are male
-Overwhelmingly majority spend a large part of their waking hours glued to screens
-Developers tend to be more satisfied with their career than their current job
-Overall, career satisfaction does not vary significantly by industry
-Current job satisfaction is very low in financial services and IT
-Career satisfaction is lowest for developers with only a few years’ experience
-Majority are in their early 20s, unmarried, without kids/dependants
-80% are self-taught – i.e. without formal training or University degree
-53.3% said remote options were a top priority they valued the most when considering a new job
Surprisingly it’s not just money i.e. salary that drives them. The benefits selected the most by respondents related to mental and physical health: vacation days, remote options, and health benefits. They prioritized opportunities for professional development over any other factor by a large margin. This could mean they’re looking to go up the corporate ladder or level up with their company’s help.
So, how does a company like yours, stay ahead of the curve with these code warriors?
Here are 8 smart ways that can help you attract, retain this vital tech talent:
Bring them together: Developers work remotely in islands in different time zones, teams, locations. If it’s outsourced and there are multiple parties, there’s a culture vacuum. To make it worse, besides email there are myriad apps and services that everyone uses. There can be a disconnect – each with their own ‘subculture’. Instead of getting lost in the noise of communication, introduce a single channel that ties in mobile, their coding tools, Slack, Skype, emails, WhatsApp and more. Meet Franz (https://meetfranz.com)2 can bring teams and services together. Use a message board like Trello, so everyone is on the same page. Ideas and information is visual and shared. A culture that brings everyone together wins.
Digital detox: Longer working hours tend to affect developer productivity. Most work over 12-15 hours a day staring at screens. It’s no surprise sleep disorders, backaches, RSI is common. When the team’s unwell, it doesn’t help. Encourage breakout sessions; off days or teleworking day. Create a monthly yoga day. Invite a Taichi or Reiki master for a morning session Organize boot camps or retreats. Gift the whole team fitness trackers with a leaderboard and rewards. Healthy body and mind leads to good code.
Create mentorships: Assign a developer with a Senior manager from other departments. It lets them get to know each other, understand their respective roles and creates empathy for what each one does. The old can learn from the young and vice versa. Such cross-functional interaction helps collaboration and for ideas to grow. Considering most developers are millennials, it’s great to have someone to learn from or look up to.
Involve them: Developers are there not just for fixing bugs and taking specs. Involve them in strategy, sales meetings, and surveys. If their work affects everyone, clearly their inputs matter. Take them on ‘field trips’ to interact with real customers, partners or suppliers. Make them a part of ‘big picture’ discussions and ask them how technology can be applied.
Upskill them: Developers love to learn, solve problems, and tinker. Give them access to online training academies like Lynda, Udemy, and others. It helps them sharpen skills and get certified. It also helps your talent to stand out and attract clients. Encourage them to sign up for free online courses from the world’s top universities; give them an invite to a workshop, event or conference. Invite consultants and motivational speakers to give them a different perspective. Pay a small part for extended education time. Treat it as a training or part of R&D budget. Borrow a page from Google’s playbook where where employees use 20% of their week to work on side projects or new ideas.
Be flexible: Unlike the sales team that has targets, some roles are harder to quantify. Evaluate and incentivize them based on user satisfaction, least bugs, app ratings or downloads – not lines of code churned, or hours at their desk. Share goals, aspirations, plans, roadmaps, vision not KPIs. If they need to work from home occasionally; try new software, clock in late after a long night, do so. Adopt ‘Scrum’ – a method to develop software that’s less rigid and adapts to changing needs and deadlines. This helps avoid burnout and stress.
‘Communitize’: Encourage employees, including your dev team, to rally for an event with the local charity or sponsor a walk. Involve them in community service, such as in-office event to donate blood, recycling or volunteer to causes. This involves interaction with outsiders and a great way to socialize away from social media. Encourage them to give back ‘the developer way’ i.e. by contributing code to the open source community; participate in ‘bug bounties’, user forums or do probono work (website for a charity maybe). This gives them and your company recognition, respect amongst peers.