Show your developers some love

By Grant English

Software development can be thankless work. Despite being the backbone of many organizations, developers are rarely shown the love. It’s only when something goes wrong, a build breaks, a site goes down or service is interrupted, that they get any attention. This needs to change.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are eight ways that you can show your developers some love.

1. Food – Never underestimate the appeal and power of free food; a donut breakfast or pizza lunch (or better yet, a pizza breakfast). We all have a more positive outlook when the food is free. It’s also a chance for the team to step away from their machines for a few minutes to talk and bond. Some great ideas can come from these informal conversations.

2. Get them buzzed – On coffee. There might be a classic drip pot somewhere in the office, but occasionally, bring in the good stuff. It’s a small gesture that shows you know and care about their needs. And that extra caffeine just might lead to extra productivity.

After work, happy hours can be a way to relax and unwind with a different sort of buzz. These more casual interactions build comradery and trust within the team. They allow for brainstorming that could lead to the next big innovative breakthrough.

3. Shout outs – A developer or team accomplish a difficult task under time or budget? Send out an all-hands email highlighting their success. Carve out a section of your internal newsletter for a “Developer of Month” spotlight. Everyone appreciates recognition for their work and it could motivate others to up their game.

4. Cool projects – This is a hard one, as any business must first do the work that pays the bills. But, if you know that a developer is most interested in a certain programming language, consider putting him or her on a project that features it.

If there is downtime between projects, consider giving developers or teams space to create. Let them develop something that could be valuable to your company or future clients. Giving them an opportunity to get creative lets them feel more fulfilled with their jobs.

5. Support their careers – It’s hard to keep up with emerging technology, especially if you’re always head down and deep in work. Designate an annual amount that developers can use for continuing training and education. The knowledge the learn and certifications they earn will also benefit your company.

6. Support their causes – What passions do your developers have outside of the office? Do they give their time to certain charities that could benefit from their expertise? Donate equipment, time or resources to these organizations and causes. Have a half-day hack-a-thon to tackle a civic problem. We’ve seen these produce great results that vastly improve the ways in which citizens can interact with their local governments or non-profits.

7. Gold stars – Remember how proud you were in third grade when you got a gold star? Well, the adult equivalent can be an on-the-spot reward for a job well done. Solve a difficult coding challenge? Get a t-shirt. Put in extra hours for testing? Free month of Spotify.

8. Bring the team together – Catalyst sponsors monthly Dev Nights, where we provide our developers with food (!) and drinks (!!). We spend a few hours with some light training and account reviews. More than anything, this allows our employees to learn from each other, provide feedback to problems, get issues out in the open and hear from management about the great work that’s being done. It reinforces that they are all a part of something bigger and are doing work that benefits thousands of others.