How to effectively incentivise a developer…

developer bonus

Insight are constantly looking at ways in which we can add value to our clients and candidates and at a recent round table event we discussed the topic of incentivising software developers at length and are happy to share some of the unique and effective ways companies can adopt to motivate their developers and reward them for their success and achievements.

On discussion, it’s clear that putting together for an effective bonus structure for a software developer can often be a very difficult challenge due to their being a lack of correlation between their input and the results achieved, particularly if they are working collaboratively on a project.

This is in contrast to the recruitment world where it’s clear, a consultants targets can easily be measured in terms of revenue and then further drilled down into KPI’s, for example customer meetings, new vacancies registered, or candidates introduced to businesses. However a software developer can hardly be targeted on the number of lines of code written because this isn’t an effective measure of the positive impact that individual is having on your business.

The developers present made it clear another challenge to consider is the number of factors that impact on the success of a business that are out of their control. One particular developer recalled how he built an application perfectly against its specification, but when the application didn’t have commercial success, partly in his eyes due to the sales people in-effectively selling the product, he was seen to have done a bad job. Obviously this can have a negative impact on the developer’s perceived value and become very de-motivating to them..

We also tried to address the generalisation that as developers aren’t ‘sales people’ they aren’t always target driven or money motivated… and asked our customers how they keep a developer motivated to perform?

The Insights from our group was as follows –

  • The best approach is to have several variables that determine the bonus or incentive, not all being personal goals but a mixture of personal goals and business goals. It also seems where those variables are chosen by the individual and not set purely by the business. By taking this approach, it is felt the individual has a sense of ownership over their targets and therefor will be more inclined to push to achieve them.


  • A developers targets shouldn’t be too dependent on the commercial success of the sales team’s delivery.


  • A target should be measurable with a clear end date or milestone. Measuring a developer is much more difficult in comparison to a sales team as because the low level targets of a sales person are tangible, a developers low level targets aren’t.


  • Set targets that complement the individual and the business as a whole. A target that will in turn improve the skills and capability of a developer will naturally compliment the business as a whole as its staff become better, more valuable employees.


  • Set targets that also encourage attitude and work ethic, this can be done by including personal development goals, not just key deliverables. Everyone has weaknesses and areas they would like to improve and they might not be something you can easily measure with statistics or finances. Setting personal goals can have a massive impact on the success of your business by improving the staff as individuals, not just achieving KPI’s… a happy workforce will always outperform an un-happy workforce…. Keep them smiling and they will succeed.

This summarises what Insight discovered but we would love to hear your views…

How do you get the best out of your tech teams?

As a developer what would motivate you to go the extra mile?

Thanks for reading and if this is an area you feel strongly about, why not set up a call or drop us a line, we would love to get your take on incentivising software developers…



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