Top 12 Employee Engagement Strategies that Get Your Software Developers to Stick Around

Effective Employee Engagement Strategies that Get Your Software Developers to Stick Around

All software development projects have lofty goals. But realizing that reaching these development objectives depends on engaging and retaining your software developers across the project’s lifecycle will save you a lot of headaches and speed up development.

The reason your developers end up leaving isn’t just because your team isn’t motivated enough, talented enough, or doesn’t do a good enough job. There are several key factors involved in what makes a software development team stay together—and understanding them will help you attract and retain the best and most talented employees.

What is Employee Engagement, Particularly for Software Development?

Employee engagement is defined asthe emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” This can translate into positive company culture, which includes such benefits as increased employee satisfaction, improved performance, fewer incidents of burnout, and reduced turnover rates.

According to the University of California Berkeley’s Employee Engagement Research Center (EERC), the number one reason employees –including software developers! – leave their jobs is because they feel underappreciated.

Employees who are engaged in their jobs are more productive, less prone to sickness, and have higher morale than those who are not engaged, according to a 2011 Gallup study. Gallup’s survey results show that employees who are engaged in their work report a stronger sense of belonging, improved relationships with their colleagues, and increased work satisfaction. Employees who are engaged tend to have a better outlook on life, report greater happiness, and are less prone to burnout.

In short, happier developers means better software.


High engagement stems from a combination of three core ingredients—organizational design, leadership, and management practices.

Employee engagement is essential because it impacts company culture, directly affecting its ability to adapt, innovate, and grow. A healthy company can attract, motivate, engage, and retain its workforce, which is critical when you are trying to build a high performing software development team.

How is Employee Engagement Connected to the Churn Rate of Software Developers in Startups And Big Companies?

If nothing else, it’s common sense that higher levels of employee engagement correlate to decreased employee turnover

Compared to big companies, startups have typically invested more heavily in “engagement” as they need to pry candidates away from more established companies and then keep them around since every employee in an early stage startup plays a critical role. Common perks offered – all in the name of engagement! – include free snacks, catered meals, and discounted or fully covered healthcare plans. Some companies try to sweeten the pot by adding gym memberships and health incentives, technology budgets (who doesn’t want a new iPhone every 12 months?), and company-sponsored events and outings.


Employee engagement is a crucial factor in employee retention, and software development teams that are super sticky (and happy) can positively impact the retention rate for the entire organization since the product is usually of higher quality and thus something everyone can feel proud of.

Want to increase your software developers' engagement? We’ve thought of perks and other benefits that haven’t even occurred to you yet. And they work.

What Are the Main Benefits of an Effective Employee Engagement Strategy for Software Developers?

#1 Increased Developer Productivity

It’s been proven that satisfied employees are 40% more productive than dissatisfied employees.

So, while you have goals to make your employees as productive as possible, it’s not always as easy as you might think.

Developers who are engaged in their jobs love what they do and find their work fulfilling. The engaged development team members will work harder, faster, and more enthusiastically.

#2 Improved Quality of Work

Software developers who are engaged in their work are happier, more productive, and more efficient in their roles. In other words, when you get more, you give more. Period. You let them know they’re valued, and they give you their creativity back in boatloads.


Software developers who are engaged in their work are happier, more productive, and more efficient in their roles. In other words, when you get more, you give more. Period. You let them know they’re valued, and they give you their creativity back in boatloads.

#3 Less Absenteeism

People who are happy at work are generally only absent when they’re truly sick or something happens that they couldn’t foresee or control. 

But when you have a developer who is dissatisfied and disengaged, you’ll start to notice repeated absences. As you can imagine, this absenteeism hurts your organization’s productivity and performance and at the very least slows your product roll.

It can also impact the company’s bottom line because it can lower the quality of your finished product as well. 

#4 High Employee Retention

Call it a trend, the Millennial generation, or just a spreading disease, but a survey of over 200,000 employees across multiple industries revealed that 73 percent would be willing to leave their job even if they were not currently seeking another one.

Sometimes it’s because there’s a perceived cavity or a gap—even a shallow one—like not enough recognition or an underwhelming pay raise. So when a new suitor comes calling, offering compliments, praise, and cold, hard cash…it’s pretty easy to follow the scent of money.

When employees join a company, they bring expectations and desires. But if they’re not met (or frankly, exceeded) they start being open to a better option.

Getting smart about engaging your developers will help keep them from developing a wandering eye, which reduces the cost of turnover and improves retention.

#5 Strong Growth of Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Rate

To improve your customer service, you must improve employee engagement levels. How are these two things connected?

Engaged employees make fewer errors, work more effectively, and are better performers. And these employees are great advocates for their company. 

They are proud to be a part of the organization. Therefore, they actively promote the brand. They also promote the products they create by talking about them to their family and friends.

83% of customers are more likely to buy a product or take a course when their friend recommends it.

So, make your developers your advocates. When your software development team feels pride in associating with your company, they’ll do anything in their power to ensure your company succeeds.

#6 Increased Team Cohesion

High engagement in the workplace brings good energy and positive vibes to the workplace. When you have developers whose motivation and drive to succeed inspires others to ride the high, your whole company ends up ahead of the rest of the pack.


How Important Is Employee Engagement in Long-Term Software Development Projects?

Software development is notoriously hard work. Many developers spend their days in cubicles, with their heads down, working hard on long-term software development projects. The days are long and the weeks are longer. As a result, they might go home feeling physically and mentally exhausted, but that doesn’t mean they have achieved their desired success. 


But what keeps them coming back fresh as a caffeinated daisy, day after day? They’re engaged. They believe in the product, they believe in the process, they believe in the faith you place in them. (The catered breakfasts, bougie coffee, and Taco Tuesdays help, too.) Little things? Maybe. Do they intentionally raise your company’s employee engagement level? Yes. They. Do.

Companies whose employees are highly engaged in their work tend to produce more revenue per worker than their counterparts who aren’t as engaged.

More revenue sounds good, right? You want a super-engaged software development team with barely any turnover, high productivity, and happy people? We can do that.

Employee Engagement vs. Employee Experience

If an organization wants to have engaged employees, it must offer engaging experiences. They are both ways to think about goals, and each affects the other.

Employee engagement can be described as a FEELING that strengthens work motivation. The employee experience is made up of COMPONENTS of work—the work they produce, the office or work-from-home environment, and the things they do at work. 

Put simply, your employee engagement is the outcome of a positive employee experience.

Team Engagement Strategy in Practice

The theory of work engagement, developed by Kahn W.A. in 1990, consists of three dimensions: cognitive engagement, emotional engagement, and physical engagement.

  • Physical Engagement Model. This means the extent to which employees expend their physical and mental efforts as they do their jobs. Kahn used examples of employees describing themselves as 'flying around' during their workday and having high levels of employee engagement during that time. Kahn considered the ability to expend physical and mental energy at work to be connected with increased feelings of confidence.
  • Emotional Engagement Model This is based on the emotional relationship between employees and their employers, as well as the relationships amongst employees. This emotional relationship includes setting boundaries and communicating openly and honestly with your employees in order to create a solid foundation upon which to build. Kahn cited positive interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, and management styles as practices that could make people feel more safe and trusted.
  • Cognitive Engagement Model. To be fully engaged, employees need to understand the organization's vision, strategy, and values and their role in each. The author also talks about the meaning that is attached to work. For example, when employees feel empowered and like they have authority over their work, it encourages creativity and confident decision-making.

The Top 12 Software Developer Engagement Strategies for You in 2022

#1 Transparent Working Process

Try to make the rules of the game clear for all the newbies from the get-go. Your developers should clearly understand what you expect from them and how they can achieve it.

You must also share your “definition of done so that your software development team and executive leadership are on the same page.

#2 Two-Way Communication Approach

You hired these folks for a reason, right? You like them and you know they have a lot to offer. Consider that what you know about them is just the tip of the iceberg. Your employees might have all kinds of great ideas that could help improve the company. So, listen up. Feeling heard is one more way for you to cut turnover rates and improve developer engagement.


#3 Balance of Sync And Async Communication

Developers often prefer asynchronous communication, but you don’t want to do it all the time or you run the risk of people feeling isolated over time.

Leverage real-time communication tools. You can communicate with your remote team members using WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and Hangouts. It’s easy, and the cost is minimal.

These tools will help keep your teammates engaged and inspire cohesive communication.

#4 Implementation of the Company Core Values

Your company culture is essential. Many things shape how people interact in every organization. These include organizational culture, brand values, leadership style, team dynamics, etc.

You must actively share your company culture and core values to strengthen employee engagement.

#5 Achievable Goal-Setting

It’s essential to set goals for growth or new productivity levels and reward your employees for reaching milestones or thresholds. 

Set people up for success, though. Surround them with support and allow them to do what they do best. 

Recognizing your developers for effort, skill, and success not only feels good, it motivates them to achieve even more.

#6 Hiring Competent Managers

Another essential engagement component: Don’t just hire competent developers—hire, train, and empower competent managers around them. 

When developers are treated fairly and own their part of the product, they feel valued, important, and relevant. So make sure the people managing them do it without micromanaging and with heavy doses of support, encouragement, and ego-less praise. 

#7 Rewards System for Good Work

Nobody wants to work where their achievements and effort go unrecognized. Give your employees credit for all their accomplishments and then take it one step further—create a rewards system that motivates and inspires them to take it one step further, too.

#8 Full Employee Benefits Packages

For most employees, a job is about way more (like WAY more) than just earning a paycheck.

The little perks and incentives along the way (like gift cards, lunches, and swag) are sweet, but they’re just the sprinkles on the sundae. 

Make sure your employees know you care not just about what they can do for you, but that they are able to live their lives as healthy, whole humans. Providing your team healthcare coverage, retirement benefits, and paid time off enables them to do just that.

#9 Maintaining a Healthy Competitive Spirit

If you make achievements and wins worth something—think bonuses or other additional perks—you create a healthy competitive spirit that feels exciting. Who doesn’t want to go the extra mile if it gets them praise, recognition, and a little sack of cash?!

Find a platform that tracks employee engagement and ties that into rewards systems that enable members to ‘convert’ wins into gift cards, bonuses, or other cool stuff. See what works and what motivates, then use the platform to create even more effective programs.


#10 Professional Development Training

We all know that sometimes you gotta move on to move up.

What if at your company, that wasn’t the case? Create a clear career path for your employees. Let them know you care about more than your own growth—you are investing in their growth too, and you want them to bloom right where they’re planted. 

Ask your employees about their professional growth goals and help them achieve those, by offering training, learning opportunities, and meaningful internal promotions.

#11 Personal Growth Encouragement

You haven’t hired robots. These are human people who—believe it or not—have entire lives they are living outside of your office. Recognize that by offering ways to help people to grow both personally and professionally.

You could give everyone a paid day off each quarter so they can donate time to a cause close to their heart. Or hold a Lunch & Learn once a month and invite employees to talk about anything but work. Maybe they end up forming a company book club or movie watchers group once they realize that their hobby is someone else’s, too. 

Bonding, baby, bonding.

#12 High-Quality Onboarding Program

Don’t limit onboarding to checking off boxes or going over job duties. Make sure you also walk new hires through your entire organization from top to bottom.

Show them the big things, the little things, and everything in between. Your new employees should always feel like family—no question is too small and everyone is welcome.

Where to Begin?

Well, that answer is going to be different for everyone. Consider all of the above then decide where you need to fill in some gaps. 

Do your software development team members get enough perks? Do these perks make them feel respected and valued? Is your team cohesive enough?

If you don’t know the right questions to ask or how to measure your engagement success, just call us. We do this all day every day for all of our clients. The best part? It works.  

We’ve done this dance before, so we know all the steps. The team you need might feel like a foggy idea to you, but it’s crystal clear to us. (And with our 2% annual turnover rate, the folks you hire with TurnKey are going to get engaged and stay engaged.) 

Together, we’ve got this. Let’s go get your team built, keep them happy and motivated, and watch your productivity shoot through the roof.


What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the degree to which employees are involved and committed to the organizational goals and values. Engaged employees are happier, better performers, and more productive. And engagement is contagious—let the positivity spread!

Why is employee engagement important?

Employees are the core component of any business. They are the company's lifeblood—their engagement determines the quality of the company's output. The last thing you want is to train employees who take those skills elsewhere. So keeping them motivated, inspired, rewarded, and high-achieving is critical to your success.

What are the types of employee engagement?

There are three types of employee engagement: physical, emotional, and cognitive. Physical engagement means an employee feels physically and emotionally healthy and engaged. Emotional engagement is when employees are energized by their work and motivated by the company's mission. Finally, cognitive engagement involves knowing that the work you do is important and valued, which inspires more of the same. Employees need all three kinds of engagement to engage and thrive at work fully.

How do you maintain employee engagement?

First and foremost, you need to understand and value the employee experience, especially as it relates to software development. Through good experiences, engagement is built. Work with TurnKey to identify what will work best for your unique company, and implement it, then adjust and escalate as you go.

January 7, 2024

TurnKey Staffing provides information for general guidance only and does not offer legal, tax, or accounting advice. We encourage you to consult with professional advisors before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or legal rights.

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