Tips for technologists: Rewarding greatness in teams

woman working with laptop

As part of our Writer’s Room blog series – articles and tutorials written by technologists from within our Andela Community – Fullstack Engineer Ewere Ebie discusses how organizations can reward greatness in the teams.

In a tech ecosystem that is based around collaboration and team effort, the tendency to overlook individual brilliance cannot be overstated. Software engineers, just like their stakeholders, have expectations when they go above and beyond in their jobs. Although some are enthusiastic enough to demand the recognition they deserve, some lack confidence to make the necessary approach. They just walk away.

This is why it’s so important for managers and team leads to incentivize their employees during the early stages of team development. In this post, I’ll be shedding light on what employees seek as rewards and how to give such rewards in a way that inspires other team members to follow suit.

The status quo  – Money

The worst companies wrap up their admiration for exceptional effort in verbal appreciation and a promise of exposure (whatever that means, but that’s a story for another day!). For most orthodox organizations, bonuses and financial perks are the perfect first steps to making employees feel valued. This approach can work, but in the long run, tends to be unsustainable as software engineers quickly grow to a point where money ceases to be a deciding factor.

A stake in the future  –  Equity & Stock options

It’s difficult to talk about true financial liberation and not arrive at the concept of securities. Start-up equity in the form of stock options is becoming a popular way to not just reward key employees but also build loyalty.

A stock-option grant will allow an employee to become a quasi-owner of the company, giving him/her the option to buy shares at a discounted price within a limited time frame, hopefully after the company’s valuation increases along with its share price. A caveat usually included is a vesting schedule, that stipulates the years of employment and cliff date after which an option can become fully usable (vested).

Opportunity for growth

The very nature of engineering is centered around continuous improvement by virtue of experience. So, it should be no surprise why stagnancy is frowned upon and considered taboo in this profession. Rewarding engineers with promotions and less micromanagement is a way to show them you trust in their ability to sustain a high performance. Upgrades in job title, grade level, and company access are all ways to express appreciation for hard work, but in cases where hierarchical adjustments aren’t immediately feasible, then greater responsibility (not menial work) with commensurate pay could also be a close compromise.

Educational/upskilling opportunities

Improving career prospects by offering curated learning (through platforms such as Udemy, Pluralsight, etc.) and transition paths (technical to managerial) to employees is a gift that is sure to yield returns for any organization. It’s the closest example in a corporate setting to feeding the goose that lays the golden egg. Not only does it make engineers feel a sense of growth but it also opens up the possibility to quickly level up in readiness for the intellectual demands their positions will certainly place on them.

Paid vacations and breaks

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

Sitting in front of a computer all week tends to take its toll. What better way to relieve the pressure than taking paid annual leave, for a holiday or an experience. Surprisingly enough, time away from work goes a long way to reinvigorating creativity and social intelligence that will certainly prove beneficial when returning to the office. Win-win!

Conclusion — Inspiring greatness

By now you should have realized you’re reading the wishlist of a not-too-shabby engineer. If you didn’t, well now you do! Greatness is fuelled by the guidance of daring leadership. Engineers want to be impactful and improve people’s lives, but to do so requires a culture that promotes experimentation and learning from errors. This, I believe, is the key to inspiring greatness.

It’s been fun sharing my thoughts with you. Till next time, ciao!

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