So you have a new developer? Cared for properly your dev will give you many hours of productive coding.

Here’s a quick guide to keeping them happy…

Interesting work

As a developer, money is rarely the most important thing in deciding whether or not to take a job. We are generally far more concerned about whether the work is going to keep us interested. There is nothing worse than staring at a screen working on a boring project for 9 hours a day.

Care Tip #1: Take on good work, get good developers

Marketable skills

We may not stay with you forever. When we leave, we need to be able to find employment somewhere else. Whilst your systems may be running ‘fine’ on 10 year old technology, a developer will be reluctant to stay as those skills are unlikely to be easily transferable.

That does not mean you need to re-write your software every year in the current fashionable language, but do make sure the developers have a chance to gain some marketable skills.

Care Tip #2: Give developers chance to keep their skills fresh.

Working environment

We are sat down at a desk for 8+ hours a day; can we have comfortable chairs, good monitors and a nice environment to work in please?

Joel Spolsky (founder of Stack Overflow) gives every developer an office each; Google has free food and free massages. You don’t need to go that far (although your developers will thank you for it), but at least get the basics right.

Care Tip #3: Make it a nice place to work.


One developer solving a problem can be good, two can often be better. Encourage an environment where programmers can sit and work through something together.

Although it looks counterproductive, the problem will often be solved quicker (and probably better) when two people are looking at it.

Care Tip #4: Two developers sat together is not duplicated effort.

The ‘zone’

Interruptions kill programmer productivity. If I’m distracted when I’m half way through something it can take a long time to get back in the ‘zone’. Headphones (often with nothing playing) are generally a good sign that it’s not a good idea to ask a question right now.

Send a Skype message or email instead and we can get back to you when it’s a good time.

Care Tip #5: Minimise interruptions, maximise productivity.

It’s OK that we’re using Twitter

Just because we’re staring into space, reading emails or checking our Twitter feed, it does not mean we’re not working. Most of our time is spent trying to solve the problem, and that doesn’t usually involve typing.

If you measure developers on the number of lines of code they write, all you guarantee is that you get lots of lines of code. In reality, only 20-30% of the time is spent actually hammering away at the keyboard.

Care Tip #6: Measure productivity, not amount of code.

So that’s what I think is important for keeping developers happy. Did I miss anything?