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Post by Rich Moy on Jan 27, 2017, 12:00:00 PM

This post was updated in December 2017 with new information.

When you have an office full of developers who seem to be happy with their jobs, it’s common to think that there isn't much cause for worry. You think to yourself, “Happy developers equals engaged developers, right?” While you should be commended if your engineering team feels this level of satisfaction with their work situation, you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of factors that make developers comfortable at work, but don’t necessarily measure their level of engagement or loyalty to your company. To meet the loftiest hiring and employee retention goals, it’s important for technical recruiters to understand the difference between job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Job Satisfaction Doesn’t Indicate a Developer’s Passion for Your Company Mission

Again, it’s only natural to assume that a developer must be engaged at work if he or she says they’re satisfied with their work situation. However, according to a recent study by ADP, there are two entirely separate definitions for “job satisfaction” and “employee engagement.” The report goes on to explain that even though an engaged employee is probably a happy employee, a content member of the team isn’t necessarily invested in the company. In fact, a happy worker might be perfectly content with simply going through the motions on a daily basis.

ADP goes on to suggest that companies that fail to track both employee satisfaction and engagement will struggle to drive the business results they’re looking to achieve. When it comes to your tech hiring and retention goals, developers who don’t feel engaged at work are far more likely to become open to hearing from other companies about new opportunities. If their lack of engagement continues for an extended period, you’ll also find that they’ll soon become active candidates looking for a way out the door.

Money Alone Can’t Boost a Developer’s Engagement

Developers want to be compensated fairly for their efforts, but they also want to work for organizations with missions they can get behind. In fact, the respondents to our Developer Hiring Survey told us that company mission is one of their most important job evaluation criteria. If you’re struggling with employee retention, this might come as a surprise. More money equals more happiness and engagement at work, right? Not quite.

PWC conducted a survey of employees and asked them how much extra time they’d be inclined to spend at work if they received a bonus for every 15 minutes of overtime they worked. They asked the same group how much longer they’d stay at the office if customer satisfaction would increase for every 150 extra minutes they worked. To their surprise, they found that 30% of respondents opted for the latter, even though their extra effort wouldn’t be rewarded with a bonus. Sure, it would be easy to address a developer’s indifference about his or her job by offering them a raise and calling it a day. However, the extra financial incentives will only keep them motivated and engaged at work for a limited amount of time.

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