A few ideas I had over the years working as a developer and developers' manager.
Give meaning to the work they do
No white-collar professional wants to do repetitive tasks day in day out. Say, your business model doesn't allow for much variety of dev tasks, there's still a way to keep your developers happy.
Here are a few ideas on what you can tell your dev:
- Tell them what is the task at hand about. Tell them that the task will help the end user work faster, better. Tell them how many people will be impacted. Tell them how much work hours will be saved. Tell them the user stories; they make the task meaningful.
- After telling them the user stories, ask them if they see alternative solutions, ideas. Just listen to them, don't shut down the ideas because they seem unrealistic.
Give them autonomy
No white-collar professional wants to only do the bidding of the manager. People have improvement ideas, field workers see many more problems than you as a manager do. Good professionals want to have some level of autonomy, they want to be valued not only for their direct responsibilities but also for other ideas.
Here are a few ideas on how you can let your dev feel appreciated:
- "I've noticed you do similar tasks over and over. I understand that sucks. So I thought, what if you took some time off your current tasks and come up with ways you can automate some repetitive tasks. I'll be online, let me know if there's something I can help you with."
- "Do you have any ideas on how we can optimise the tasks you do? I trust you have much expertise, so I thought you may have valuable insights. Write down your ideas and plan out a simple plan for how you would implement your ideas. When you're ready, let's sit down later and discuss them."
Give them means to do their best work
It is true, that not every hire knows what they want to do and do it well. I think, it's my responsibility as a manager to help those people rehabilitate or find their calling, even if it means they will move on from your team or the company. For all others (professionals who know what they want to do and to do it well), don't be stingy and give them all tools and means to do their work the best they can.
A few ideas:
- Ask the devs if there are any tools they need to be bought in addition or instead of the current ones so they could do their work better. Stay within rational budgets.
- Ask if they have noticed they might be lacking some knowledge or practice to do their work better. Make sure it doesn't sound like a veiled dig at their performance. If they had, ask if they want money to take some courses or allotted time to learn at work.
- Ask if there are any processes, cultural things that hinder their performance. If they ask to work from home because they can't stomach the company culture, set it in motion. If they ask for a change in processes, set it in motion and make them one of the advisors.
Pay them well
Everyone wants to get paid fairly. Definition of fair is very subjective. To some, it depends on how they perceive themselves compared to other players in the market, and their pay to the pay of same level professionals in the market, to some it is about their feeling of self-worth. Either way, it's not your place to tell them what they want is not right. If the budgets allow and the asked pay seems reasonable in the market, give them the money. If it doesn't, give them the money and strike a clear time-bound deal in terms of their performance for the money. Be careful, though. They might not be able to take the blow of conditional pay. Be ready to say goodbye to them.