7 Strategies to Keep Your Developers Productive & Happy

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The IT industry thrives because of its consistent, high-speed evolution. With the rising cost of web and software development services (IT spending worldwide is estimated to be over $4 trillion for the year 2021), it only makes sense to try to gain the efficiency and productivity of your tech team—whether they be in the office or remote.

Many companies use technologies, methodologies, and processes such as Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, and other user-centered approaches that can definitely make a tremendous difference. But at the end of the day, the most critical piece of this complex puzzle is the developers themselves. They are the heart of your business—it's as simple as that.

So how do you keep your developers productive? Here are 7 ways to help you do that.


1. Have clear and attainable goals and milestones

Determine which major tasks to prioritize and make sure to set an achievable timeline for each. This will not only get the team to see results regularly but also enable them to come up with better-focused solutions. For large projects, consider breaking them into smaller (bite-sized) attainable iterations or sprints, so your team gets to accomplish something every week or at least at regular intervals. This way, the developers see some tangible movement towards the finish line, so to speak, and get to have some sense of fulfillment that would help them stay motivated instead of feeling stuck.

And of course, don't forget to track everything so everyone can see the team's progress and be encouraged to keep at it and move forward.


2. Clearly define roles and responsibilities

Make sure to assign individual roles and goals to each team member at the onset. This way, each individual has a sense of ownership and accountability for their tasks. You want to encourage excellence but at the same time set realistic expectations. And equip them for success, such as setting coding guidelines for developers like code commenting and keeping clean code. That way, your team knows you appreciate it if they put their best foot forward, but you're also a reasonable boss who cares about them.

After assigning their designated roles and responsibilities, make sure to give them the space to get to work without you hovering over them. No one likes being micromanaged. Instead, set regular sync-up meetings so you're aware of their progress and they have opportunities to air concerns and issues if they have any.

Defining roles aside, encouraging each member to strengthen their skills and acquire new ones is key to boosting their motivation and capabilities. This way, they will see themselves grow professionally, regardless if it's an upward or lateral move within the company. After all, sometimes a pivot is all it takes to get out of a "career rut." To effectively accomplish this, though, strive to get to know each of them, perhaps through 1-on-1 meetings, and give them various opportunities to hone those new skills they just acquired.


3. Give them the right tools

Having the right tools can empower your developers to deliver the highest quality output in the shortest amount of time.

Tools for Software Development
One of the most valuable characteristics of software development tools is the ability to automate recurring and repetitive tasks. Aside from cutting down the time, this helps establish a system within your team so you can have a more seamless process and lower operational costs.

When choosing a tool for defect management, source code management, deployment, or any other function, your primary consideration should be the functionalities and if it can be easily integrated into your day-to-day process. Other factors that you should also consider are scalability, traceability, customization, and compatibility with other tools.

Project Management Tools
Buying a project management tool on top of your software development tools may seem excessive, but don’t cripple yourself where it really counts.

Purchase a project management tool that will allow your development team to focus on writing code. The more time your team spends on sending task updates, the less time they spend building your product.

Some of our most recommended tools for that are Jira and Asana. There are other available project management tools in the market, though. It’s just a matter of finding which one is most suitable for your team.

4. Provide mentorship, training, and continuous education

Training and professional development have been proven to improve the productivity and satisfaction of employees.

However, many traditional companies still expect their employees to learn new techniques and skills on their own time and their own dime. More often than not, the problem with this is they may not have the time, money, or desire to do this.

By providing training and continuous education to your developers, you expand the skill sets that they can use for future projects. This setup will benefit the company in the long run. If you want to have better developers on your team, consider having a mentorship program among your employees. It would help if you also looked at training opportunities outside of your office.

Even if training is not possible due to budget constraints, it is still possible to conduct internal training sessions or allow employees to spend a portion of their time on self-education. After all, as your developers get better at their jobs, they will be more productive. For instance, at Arcanys there’s a Paid Weekend Training Program that gives developers, testers, and other tech experts the time and opportunity to learn other technologies. And the arrangement comes with a P600 allowance, P150 meal allowance, and a bonus for passing the certification training.

Moreover, don’t limit your developers to technical skills training. Think also of providing training for leadership, interpersonal communication, management, etc. These types of training can make them more efficient in handling and communicating issues as well as assure them of career advancement within your organization.


5. Encourage open communication and feedback

Aside from setting clear goals, it's also essential to establish a communication protocol with your team from the start. Encourage all members to be prompt in informing pertinent people of issues and do so with respect and kindness. It is, of course, important to be direct, but it's likewise important to have etiquette when doing so. After all, resolutions arrive much quicker if not tainted with anger or anxiety. And if they don't get a timely response from colleagues or teammates, let them know you can help do a follow-up.

Another important thing you should set are regular performance evaluations or feedback after every milestone or sprint. This way, your team knows what they’re doing right and which areas they need to improve on. As with most things, you know there’s always room for improvement, especially in the highly competitive software industry.

Moreover, managers should strive to be available for a quick chat, whether for critical concerns or just a morning greeting. Establishing rapport with your team plays a vital role in effective team management because your people will feel you're more approachable. However, draw a clear line between being an approachable manager and a friendly colleague they can easily disregard—so you retain your authority while remaining accessible.


6. Keep non-coding tasks minimal

Many managers think that the key to higher productivity is to work more than eight hours daily. In reality, an eight-hour workday can be productive enough if used properly and wisely. Plus, your team would most probably rather strive to be more efficient in eight hours than learn to love 10-hour workdays. A study by John Pencavel of Stanford University even revealed that reducing working hours can improve productivity.

Instead of extending the work hours, find out what are the tasks that are consuming most of your developers’ time (e.g., answering emails, attending meetings, giving status updates) and find out ways how you can reduce or eliminate these. A few proven ways to do this are the following:

  • Place effective meeting management practices in place, and know how to identify red flags during remote meetings.
  • As mentioned, talk to your team and find out where they are “losing” a lot of time and try to eliminate those wasted hours wherever possible.
  • Limit the use of email to important matters or use messaging apps for instant communication.
  • If you don’t have professional testers yet in the team to do the testing, then it may be time to have them.


7. Get them into the flow.

The “flow” for the developers is the state when they feel the most focused and productive. Therefore, most of their work is done during this state.

Different people get into the flow in a variety of ways. The key is knowing your developers and creating a work environment with minimal to no distractions for them. So how do you manage that? Well, below are some ways to help them get into and stay in the flow:

  • Flextime and flexplace.

    Isn’t it amazing how some people can finish work fast in the morning and tire easily later during the day? Others, meanwhile, get into the groove of things not until later in the evening. There are also people who prefer to work at home or have a more mobile work setup. And with the situation the world has recently found itself in (what with the need for social distancing and all), this is not a bad setup to contemplate for the long haul.

    Finding that time of the day and the setup where one can be really productive is crucial, so it’s really best that managers accommodate an overall flexible work arrangement for their team.

  • Headphones on!

    For others, certain genres of music can also help them focus. So you can set up different Spotify playlists for various types of work mode, whether it be for developers that need pick-me-up songs in the morning or some serious tunes for hardcore or late night coding. After all, music can help not only with increasing focus but also in improving one’s mood and motivation. Now, there are also people who get easily distracted and find it difficult to focus when listening to music. Some may even end up singing along to the songs and forgetting about work altogether.

    As they say, different strokes for different folks. So if developers are working in the office or at home with a roommate, encourage them to use headphones when listening to music.

  • Clear the distractions.

    Most managers believe that programming requires extended periods of intense concentration. What they don’t realize is that they are not doing a very good job at letting their team focus on their work. Distractions can take all sorts of forms, such as chatting, e-mails, requests for status reports, and goofing off.

    One thing that can help is to change the way you communicate. Encourage face-to-face or instant messaging for time-critical items, and ask that your team keep emails closed for much of the day.

    If possible, place your team members in private offices to minimize the distractions around them. If they’re working from home, help them set up an appropriate home office and regular work hours that their family or housemates can respect and get used to. It would also be a good idea to set some minor apps silent or in the background by turning off notifications (e.g., Slack, Skype, etc.) or simply closing them for a period of time.

  • Use online tools for better attention and focus

    Encourage your team to make use of online apps or tools to help them further minimize those distractions. Examples of these are RescueTime, which monitors the time you spend on applications and websites; focus@will, which provides music that is scientifically-proven to improve focus and productivity; and Self-Control, which blocks out websites irrelevant to a workplace for a set amount of time.

    Other free apps/chrome extensions you may also want to check out:



The Role of Management in Keeping Developers Productive

Many companies have experienced low productivity gains despite implementing productivity systems and models because they ignore the two most important factors: communication and management.

A great way to practice communication and management is by having regular meetings—either daily or at certain times of the week. This gives you the chance to connect with your team, learn about their issues, and guide them through hurdles. Moreover, you should conduct these meetings efficiently and allow everyone the opportunity to talk about the issues they face.

This way, it puts everyone on the same page, and members can present areas for improvement, which can strengthen the team’s connection thereby increasing productivity in the long run.

Keeping your developers productive not only ensures fast or on-time delivery of the project but also allows them to be more innovative. In the end, this impacts your organization as a whole.

Now, you won’t have to worry about the costs, issues, and other resources you have to devote to hiring, retaining, and keeping developers productive if you outsource your software development. Tech partners like Arcanys can take all that burden off your shoulders. If you're interested to know more, contact us today to find out how we can speed up your project and minimize your spending.

About the author

Fred had been working on IT and operational projects in the finance and software industry in Switzerland for 10 years before co-founding Arcanys in 2010. He carefully negotiated with and managed outsourcing suppliers as a corporate buyer on the one hand, and led delivery teams as an internal provider to operational departments at an executive level of listed companies in Switzerland, on the other. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, Fred is now leading the worldwide sales and marketing efforts of Arcanys. View on Linkedin