6 surefire ways to motivate your development team

10 min read
February 17, 2023

According to the Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report, 40% of people who quit their jobs do it within their first year.

Those are harrowing statistics indeed. The truth is that it’s becoming harder to retain staff.

Whether it’s to find a bigger salary or a more flexible work arrangement, there are now more reasons for people to change jobs.

But the good news is that the tactics to motivate staff—and keep them—are pretty straightforward.

This article will give you six ways to strengthen your development team’s morale.

Offer competitive compensation with benefits

It might be materialistic to think so, but the reality is that people work to earn money and make a living.

So if you want to motivate your development team, compensation is the best place to start.

Simply put, your employees should be getting a salary that matches their skills and the industry standard.

After all, they’ll probably leave if they’re getting less than what their peers get at a competing company.

Indeed, a 2021 study by PwC reported that a bigger salary was the number one reason that pushed employees to find another job.

Top reasons for job hopping

Source: SHRM

That’s why it’s important to always be in touch with the median salary in your industry and location.

You can do this by consulting with your country’s labor department or at a site like Glassdoor and Payscale.

You should then conduct regular review sessions with employees to gauge if their salary is still appropriate based on skills, performance, and industry standards.

For example, DECODE has a policy of modifying paychecks every three months to ensure it’s on par with or above the market rate.

But salaries are just one part of it. Benefits are just as crucial to motivate your development team.

Make sure to cover all the basics, such as medical perks, 401k’s, and paid time off.

The DECODE team, for instance, gets full medical and insurance coverage, including paid sick leave.

To give you an idea, here are some of the most popular benefits offered by US companies in 2021.

Most popular employee perks

Source: Benefit News

But you should also note that different people value different things. Some might value more time off with their family, while younger staff could prefer bigger bonuses.

This preference changes over time, too.

For example, the recent COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adopt remote work. People got used to it and experienced the benefits firsthand.

No wonder a flexible work arrangement is now a critical consideration when finding a job, according to a McKinsey & Company study.

Top motivators for finding a new job

Source: McKinsey & Company

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to talk to your development team and find out their needs.

You can also consider customized benefits packages so that every staff gets the perk that matters the most to them.

Provide a stable work-life balance

At DECODE, our motto is “your work shouldn’t be your life.”

We believe a sustainable work-life balance is critical if you want long-term success. It will lead to happier and healthier employees, making them much more effective at work.

It also helps reduce employee burnout and turnover, which could become expensive for you in the long run.

That’s because it’s generally costly and time-consuming to replace an employee—requiring 42 days and up to $4,425 on average.

In other words, work-life balance is a win-win for both parties. But how do you cultivate it?

You can start by looking at the biggest roadblocks to work-life balance:

Biggest barriers to work-life balance

Source: Zippia

The good news is that you have control over these barriers.

One strategy you can use is providing a flexible work environment. Allowing variable schedules and the opportunity to work remotely helps eliminate burnout and work stress.

You should also avoid overtime—which developers are sadly notorious for—as much as possible. It’s an unhealthy habit, even though many people treat it as a sign of productivity.

Overtime might get more work done in the short term. However, it actually lowers your team’s overall efficiency in the long run.

Indeed, studies have shown that working 35 hours per week (or around 7 hours a day) is optimal. Anything more, and your productivity suffers.

35 hours a week vs 60 hours a week productivity

Source: Chris Bailey

The DECODE team knows this, so we aim to average only 1.1 overtime hours per month.

Lastly, the best way to promote work-life balance is to give people more time outside work. You can do this by providing ample vacation time and sick leave.

For example, DECODE team members who are parents get an extra day off to spend with their kids. We also add vacation days as an incentive for doing extra work.

The bottom line is that work-life balance should be an integral part of your business policy—because it greatly impacts your bottom line.

Give your development team the right tools

Even the best sculptor can’t produce a masterpiece with a substandard chisel. It’s the same with your development team.

Thus, you should arm them with the right tools and technologies so they can create their best work. Outdated software can hamper their productivity and even damage their morale.

At the minimum, provide powerful workstations and architecture. This can help speed up your developers’ workflow and eliminate frustrations from computer crashes.

Moreover, better computers can relieve your IT team from constant repairs and troubleshooting. This allows them to focus on more productive tasks.

It’s also good to offer dual monitors, especially for creative folks like UX designers.

This is perhaps the easiest way to improve productivity by up to 35.5%, according to a study by Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

Multiple monitor screens productivity boost

Source: Eire Graphic Design

Another thing you should look at is your team’s tech stack.

Make sure they’re using the right technologies for the project. Using the wrong programming language or third-party library can lead to more issues and developer stress.

Not to mention it’ll produce a less stable app.

Tech stack examples

Source: Apxor

Furthermore, letting your development team use the latest technology can be a source of pride.

Most developers are enthusiastic learners and would want to experience the newest tools, much like food blogger geeks out on the newest restaurant in town.

In the long run, letting your team learn the newest technology gives you a competitive edge.

Provide opportunities for professional development

One of the best investments you can make is to grow the skills of your development team.

On the surface, it helps them deliver better work much faster, thus saving you time and money.

It also helps keep your team relevant as trends and technology move fast in the software development world.

But focusing on professional development is also a great motivator.

The 2022 Emeritus Global Career Impact Survey found that 89% of employees who learned new skills were far more engaged in their work.

Boosting employee retention and engagement

Source: Emeritus

The easiest way to achieve this is by having an in-house training program. It could be as simple as having a senior developer mentor a younger one to improve their skills.

This is the cheapest route, leveraging your team’s experience.

Apart from upskilling, you should also provide an avenue for reskilling. This is when employees want to learn a new skill irrelevant to their current job role.

An example is a back-end developer who wants to learn UX tools like Adobe XD or Sketch.

Reskilling can be a lifeline for an employee that’s bored and unmotivated. They may be in the wrong role, so allowing them to switch careers can be a great motivator.

This is something that we offer to every DECODE team member.

You can also rely on external training such as workshops and courses to up their skills.

For example, every DECODE team member also gets an educational budget as part of their benefits. Also, consider getting your staff certified in their chosen skill.

Benefits of a certified staff

Source: Global Knowledge

The bottom line is that fostering your team’s professional development is the most effective way to motivate and improve their performance. We urge you to allot a portion of your budget to this.

Promote a collaborative work culture

Work culture is everything. An employee can have the highest salary and the best benefits in the world, but if they still won’t thrive in a stressful environment.

That’s why you must focus on having a collaborative work culture that encourages open communication, effective teamwork, and innovation.

The best benefit of a good work culture is that it creates engaged, enthusiastic employees.

And according to a Gallup survey, companies with employees who are invested in their work earn 23% more profits.

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So, how can you have a collaborative work culture? Here are some best practices.

The first is to encourage your staff to have side projects.

At DECODE, we have Demo Days and Hackathons where DECODE team members can work on their own projects and share their work with everyone else.

It’s a source of pride and inspiration for the team and enables them to improve their skills in a fun way.

Second, have a regular huddle where you talk about things as a team, preferably in a relaxed atmosphere with a few drinks. It’s a great way to discuss concerns or even celebrate wins.


Source: DECODE

The third is to know the team and make members know each other as well.

You can do this by having team-building sessions, fun events at the office, or simply hanging out together as a team after a busy work day.

Doing non-work activities as a team is a fantastic way to create a positive working environment. It also helps team members feel like they’re with friends or family instead of just co-workers.

Studies show that this sense of belongingness can improve productivity by 56% and happiness by 12%.

Impact of belonging on employee happiness

Source: BetterUp

The last tip is to foster a culture of recognition in your team. We’ll discuss this in the next section.

Recognize the development team’s achievements

Recognizing the development team’s achievements and the contributions of individual members is a powerful motivator.

People innately crave recognition from their peers. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it helps build a person’s self-esteem, thus leading to a higher sense of fulfillment.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Source: Eden Hensley

Recognition is a powerful tool that could lead to better performance, higher engagement, and retention. It can also get “addicting” to members, pushing them to do even better next time.

When recognizing achievements, praise people in front of their peers to maximize the impact on their confidence. Plus, it also inspires other team members to do the same.

However, you shouldn’t stop with just verbal recognition. When the contribution is substantial enough, you need to back it up with tangible rewards like bonuses and perks.

This sends the message that your recognition is sincere, not just lip service.

Monetary rewards are preferred, of course. However, you can also go with longer vacation leaves, gift vouchers, or a free shirt.

It depends on the size of the achievement and how far you’re willing to go.

The bottom line is that recognizing your development team’s achievements is an easy strategy for motivation. You simply need to pick the right rewards.

One final tip for motivating your team

We hope you’ve found an idea or two on this list that you’re willing to try.

The fact is that motivating your team isn’t rocket science. It requires you to treat them as partners and not just mere cogs in the wheel.

However, these tips will only work if you hire the right people. Even the best work culture and compensation package will fall flat on a staff with inadequate skills and a poor work ethic!

If you’re struggling to find qualified people on your team, read our excellent hiring primer here.

Written by

Marin Luetic


A seasoned software engineering executive, Marin’s role combines his in-depth understanding of software engineering processes (particularly mobile) with product and business strategies. Humbly boasting 20+ years of international experience at the forefront of telecoms, Marin knows how to create and deliver state of the art software products to businesses of all sizes. Plus, his skills as a lifelong basketball player mean he can lead a team to victory. When he’s not hopping from meeting to meeting, you’ll find Marin listening to indie rock, or scouring the latest IT news.

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