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ON COMPENSATION

05 Aug 2008

I came across a fantastic article (PDF) this morning discussing various considerations of software development team compensation, like how money isn't an eternal motivator:

While monetary rewards can be a powerful driver of behavior, the motivation they provide is not sustainable. Once people have an adequate income, motivation comes from things such as achievement, growth, control over one’s work, recognition, advancement, and a friendly working environment.

In fact, using money as a primary motivator can be quite damaging in the long-term:

...once employees get used to receiving financial rewards for meeting goals, they begin to work for the rewards, not the intrinsic motivation that comes from doing a good job and helping their company be successful. Many studies have shown that extrinsic rewards like grades and pay will, over time, destroy the intrinsic reward that comes from the work itself.

The people you want on your team are the people who would be willing to do the job for free. Obviously their passion has to be anchored by actual skill, but it's this passion that will drive a person above and beyond the minimal requirements of the project, and that will drive the person to constantly learn and improve. People like this don't feed off money; they feed off accomplishment, and that's what you, as a team lead, need to foster.

That said, everyone has financial responsibilities: a mortgage to pay, a family to support, and so on. Passionate people are not oblivious to these responsibilities, and still expect to be paid a reasonable and competitive salary as a function of meeting their day-to-day needs. The key point is that the money itself is not the reward; it is merely a tool which enables the person focus on accomplishing things.

There are many more excellent points in the article. If you're a team lead of any kind, definitely give it a read (PDF).

By the way, I came by this via Jeff Atwood's consistently-excellent blog Coding Horror, which in my opinion should be required reading for everyone involved in software development.

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