Motivation and Growth of Systems Development Professionals
A company that knows how to treat its workforce properly ends up with happy, satisfied, and loyal employees regardless of whatever industry they belong to. The information technology field is highly predisposed to flighty employees, thus, keeping them motivated and positive is always a challenge. As companies scramble to hire the best systems development professionals such as quality assurance testers, systems engineers, systems analysts, and programmers, among others, these IT professionals keep themselves updated with the trends in the industry and upgrade their skills as well. Thus, the key to maintaining the best systems development professionals is to keep them motivated at work and provide them with growth opportunities within and outside the company.
The way to manage systems development professionals is the same way of handling other types of office employees. They want leaders who will protect the employees' interests, who will aid in solving their project and office issues, and most importantly, a leader who will lead them towards the goals they have set for themselves (Schindler, 2008). Software developers perform better at work and shun notions of leaving a company when they find something that motivates them to stay. Sometimes, these motivations are not monetary in nature, but the challenge of working in a company that provides them with an environment or projects that test their skills and potentials. For instance, Beecham et al. (2007) maintains that because software engineers are growth-oriented, technically competent, achievement-oriented, value feedback, and crave for recognition (p. 5), they easily identify with the task and seek clear goals for doing the task. The goals must be distinct, interesting, and has a place in the wider scheme of projects and tasks the company offers.
According to a research conducted by Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s, engineers and accountants identified hygiene factors that included "working conditions, quality supervision, salary, safety, and company policies" (Walling, n.d.) as among the reasons that make employees stay in a company. Thus, providing employees with clean and functional work spaces, having the best managers to help them steer their career goals, secured working environment, and fair company rules help in keeping employees unhappy about work. He also mentions about motivation factors that help put meaning to an individual's career goals, such as "achievement, recognition, responsibility, the work itself, personal growth, and advancement" (Walling, n.d.). While these factors contribute to job satisfaction and motivation, these are not guarantees that employees will stay loyal to a company when they find better and more challenging opportunities in other companies.
Systems development professionals, for example, thrive in companies that keep them motivated - resulting to increased project productivity, higher software quality, and overall positive contribution to the project. In addition, there is a noticeable decrease in absenteeism when employees are happy, therefore, projects are delivered on schedule, projects stay on budget, and results to a stable staff retention rate.
What then can keep systems development professionals motivated and satisfied at work? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers, for instance, graduate with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, computer science, or software engineering, focusing on subjects that teach them how to build software. While some companies opt for professionals who have master's degree in IT, there are also those who accept systems development professionals who have extensive actual experience in software development. Thus, prospective employees attend seminars and take certification tests to increase their professional marketability. Companies must address this constant hunger for knowledge, improved skills, and challenging tasks if they want to retain their employees. Thus, exposing employees to trainings and conventions help in dealing with the issue of employee retention. Otherwise, companies will always be on the lookout for qualified professionals after training the employees and the cycle repeats all over again.
Companies, for instance, may provide support by offering company-paid computer trainings, which could lead to certification exams provided by systems software vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle for systems software engineers (Career Overview, n.d.). The more certifications an employee completes, the higher the motivation becomes. While these types of certifications are not enough to keep employees from moving to other companies, the benefit is still with the company because the employee will use whatever knowledge gained from the training to the projects assigned to the individual. This is the reason why the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society offers a professional certification for software development professionals who want to become certified in their respective fields.
Depending on the specific field a computer professional is in, different IT companies provide upgrade trainings for those already in the IT field. As an example, a SAP BW Consultant functions as a specialist that will analyze reports to help design, build, and implement a "BW landscape and Data Model" (Boz). Thus, an employee who sees himself becoming a SAP consultant someday should consider taking SAP certification exams in Business Intelligence, Modeling and Data Management, Enterprise Data Warehousing, and Reporting and Analysis, among others (Boz). If the employee's company cannot provide the trainings themselves, then getting outside sources to handle the training or sending the employee to the training venue helps.
Another example is the Quality Assurance engineers who are expected to know about various computer system platforms, operating systems, and databases such as Oracle and DB2. It would help if the employee knows about various types of testing methodology, including Sanity Testing, Functional Testing, User Acceptance Testing, and Regression Testing, among others. In case the systems development professional has no previous experience or is in need of additional training on the specified skills, then the company must be ready to fund the employee's trainings (SQAGeeks, 2011) and help the employee to reach his or her career plans.
Apart from technical skills, other factors that contribute to employee motivation include knowing that the company trusts employees that they are doing their jobs, and that they are doing it right. While some managers have a general distrust on systems development professionals, this could backfire because as these professionals place a high value on trust when it comes to confirming whether they are indeed happy at work or not. When managers allow the IT personnel do their job as they want and without micromanaging, the employee is more likely to finish the job earlier and with high quality, especially when he or she knows that the superiors are entrusting them with huge responsibilities. In addition, completing the tasks on time and with high quality further add to the employees' pride, thus, the next time a similar job is available, he or she is more likely to volunteer or participate. Likewise, systems development professionals prefer receiving their tasks ahead of time, which allows them to arrange their schedules properly, thus, giving them more time to prepare and plan (Schindler, 2008).
Innovation and change are other things that motivate development professionals. Especially when one has been doing the same thing for years, then innovating can inject new ideas and ways of doing things (Jackson). For instance, a quality tester has been employed as a tester for four years already and thus, has been assigned to the same project in those four years of employment. However, this could lead to boredom, which could hinder a tester's productivity and quality of work. Instead, what a company may opt to do is to rotate the tasks or projects so that everyone on the team gets to work on various other projects and platforms. Furthermore, it could help eliminate burn out.
Although some development professionals claim that money is the least of their motivations, truth is, it can push an individual to perform better when there is a financial reward at the end of the project (Jackson). For instance, after delivering the completed assignment, management may opt to reward senior developers a bonus based on the actual revenues the project generated for the company, and not merely on the salary of the senior developer. By doing so, the company is giving the message that good performances merit financial rewards.
Teamwork is another factor that motivates developers to produce high quality output. When working with a team, developers coordinate with fellow developers to check whether the module assigned to one will run alongside another program created by another developer. Thus, in such instances, having good working relationships with others also contribute to success of the project (Sharp) and in improving team cohesion (Beecham et al., 2007, p. 9). If there are conflicts within the organization, output is affected, as there could be individuals who will not cooperate when the need arises. Thus, in such cases, the team leader or manager must be able to pacify the team members and fix the issue immediately (Kelly, 2009). Even if a team were composed of high achieving developers, if they cannot work together as a team, then they would fall short of their deliverables as well as "outperformed by a team of average developers who work well together" (Asproni, 2004, p.5).
For software developers, working in a collaborative environment is very important because it means that each team member is working towards a common goal. The term "collaborative climate" (Asproni, 2004, p. 5) typifies what this means because each one in the team performs a task that is dependent on modules assigned to another team member. Thus, the trust factor is crucial considering that if one of the members fails to deliver his or her own module, it would affect the whole team. With trust, coordination, and communication, the team can expect very positive results.
As already mentioned, systems development professionals are achievement oriented, which could be attributed to their being highly technical individuals (Beecham et al., 2007, p. 5). They like challenging goals that stretch their limits (Asproni, 2004, p.4) and enjoy solving problems (Kelly, 2008). Because of this, creating a well-planned career path for them is very important. The manager must ensure that their knowledge and skills are put to good use to eliminate monotony and exhaustion that are common in people working in the IT Industry.
In addition, they place a high value on evaluation of their tasks and achievements because "developers want to learn and grow" (Kelly, 2008). They believe that through constant appraisals, they will be able to improve their performance or create development plans in case the IT professional falls short of what is expected of the individual. This will enable the professional to work collaboratively with his or her manager to come up with realistic yet challenging goals. In case the systems development professional did well in the evaluation, a good way to motivate the individual is to reward the achievement (Asproni, 2004, p.5) based on his or her performance.
Just like any other employee working in a different industry, software development professionals are concerned about having a good and secure working environment, how to improve themselves, having good working relationships with fellow team members, and getting opportunities that allow them to exercise their skills instead of inhibit them. Apart from money considerations or rewards, systems development professionals seek opportunities that could make them technically proficient, grow them professionally, and increase their knowledge when it comes to the information technology industry. If the company cannot provide the necessary trainings and certifications, then a good alternative is to find outside sources that could offer the needs of the professionals. They may be sent to outside trainings so that they also get to network with other professionals in the industry. When these matters are covered, a company has done its job in keeping the employees not only happy and satisfied, but motivated as well.
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