Five ways to motivate your development team

Supporting motivation in an application development team can be difficult. These five tips will help you keep your developers excited and engaged in their work.

It's always a challenge keeping a team of application developers motivated. But if you want to bring that big project in on time, motivated is what your developers and programmers have to be. So how do you do it? How do you keep that development team of yours excited and engaged in their work?

Silly squeeze ball gifts, a free lunch on a sunny afternoon or allowing someone to leave early on a Friday isn’t going to keep the team motivated. Such gestures create goodwill and are important for maintaining a positive workplace environment. But keeping developers eager and excited about programming takes a little more than that. Here are five things you should think about doing:


1. Give your developers the resources they need.
If you’re paying your developers $100,000 salaries, why let them develop on machines that have 486 microprocessors in them? You can get a quad-core computer with four gigs of RAM in it for about four hundred bucks these days. Every developer complains that their software is slow, but they’ll be much more forgiving of a slow environment if they know their getting supported on the hardware side.

2. Recognize a job well done
Praise works wonders. Ego is an underestimated motivating factor. When milestones are hit and users are happy with the latest increment, recognize the work of the development team and make that recognition public so everyone knows who is responsible for the success.

3. Get rid of dead wood
When someone on the team is not producing, you have to get rid of them. On a long project, the determining factor of how fast a team can produce code is usually dictated by the person that is producing the least. Do not let a slacker determine where the low-water mark is in terms of production.

4. Push for new software releases
Programmers want to be developing in Java 7, not a seven year old version of Java. Knowing that they are using the latest technology is often motivation in itself for developers to stay late, learn something new, and apply new knowledge. Working on old software versions makes developers feel like they are getting rusty. Risk aversion always makes management reluctant to move to the newest release, but at the very least, a development team should know that the project manager is fighting to get the latest and greatest tools and technologies into the mix.

5. Let developers develop
Communicate, but don’t over communicate. Too often project managers who are insecure about their capabilities schedule too many meetings in an effort to "keep on top of things." Eight developers in a room for an hour talking about nothing in particular is a full man-day of production lost. Communication is important, but over-communicating is wasteful. Schedule those meetings sparingly.


If you want to bring your projects in on time, you need to keep your developers motivated and enthusiastic about what they’re doing. These five tips will help you keep your team engaged, and help you to bring those tough and challenging projects in on time.

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I'm totally with you on the squeeze balls and other stupid trinket gifts! I do, however, love a free lunch :) We hardly ever even get that!

The "getting rid of dead wood" thing seems a little harsh. If the person is just lazy, then sure. But maybe this person is just too inexperienced and isn't receiving guidance or proper training. Look at the team and look at yourself, and determine if you should be doing more to provide support in order for the person to improve.