What make software developers happy?

Man sitting on a chair outside with a laptop on his lap

I started thinking about this after I read the 2021 State of the Software Developer Nation report produced by OfferZen. This is based on surveys conducted with South African developers in October 2020.

It’s not team building

Disclosure: I am not a fan of team building events. I’ve been on some – and I enjoyed the go-carts. But none of the events ever changed the way I felt about the current team or the project.

Having said that, I must also disclose that I am not really a “people person”. I prefer personal one-on-one conversations to group events and parties.

Morale matters

Don’t get me wrong: morale matters. And during the pandemic, morale matters even more than before. Team cohesion also matters. And the purpose of team-building is to improve morale, and build team cohesion.

My question is simply whether traditional team-building activities — or the current online variations — work for software developers (and people like me).

Developers like to learn

The OfferZen report contains some predictable statistics, as well as some interesting facts. (If you’re involved in recruitment, you might be surprised by the statistics relating to degrees and negative interview experiences.)

I want to share two of the findings with you. Neither surprised me, but I like having statistics to quote.

  • 52.5% of developers say that career growth and learning opportunities are the main reason they stay in their job. (Compare that to 25% who stay for the salary.)
  • 55.8% of developers want challenging projects and opportunities to learn new skills. And 47.8% want the chance to use new languages and frameworks.

It’s simple: good developers like to learn.

Do the math

Learning new skills makes your developers happy, and it gives you better skilled developers. It sounds like a no-brainer to me. I don’t know how much your company spent on year-end parties and team building activities before the pandemic. But I can’t help wondering if that money wouldn’t be better spent on training.

And be a little more adventurous. Don’t limit your developers to a course that relates to their current project. Give them the chance to choose what they want to learn. The act of learning stimulates problem-solving and creative skills, and will still benefit the company.

I’m always interested in your views, so please feel free to add your comments to this post.

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