My Reading notes from 'Motivation in Software Engineering: A systematic literature review', by Beecham at al.


Software Engineers A Distinct group#

While Most papers (76%) find Software Engineers are a distinct occupational group, it depends on individual context.

Software Engineer Characteristics#

they group the individual characteristics into three distinct but linked categories:

  • Controllers: the individual's personality traits and ability. Determine specific characteristics.
    • Personality traits
    • Career path
    • Competency
  • Moderators: external factors and demographics. Moderate each characteristic's strength
    • Career stage
    • Culture (as in country's culture)
  • Characteristics: influenced by controllers and motivators. Top mentioned:
    • Growth-oriented (need to be challenged, learning new skills)
    • Introverted (less need for social interaction)
    • Autonomous
    • Technical competence
    • Need for stability.
  • Employee participation/involvement/working with others
  • Identify with the task (clear goals, personal interest, know purpose of task, how it fits in with whole, job satisfaction; producing identifiable piece of quality work)
  • Good management (senior management support, team-building, good communication)
  • Career path (opportunity for advancement, promotion prospect, career planning)
  • Sense of belonging/supportive relationships
  • Variety of work (e.g. making good use of skills, being stretched)
  • Rewards and incentives
  • Poor working environment (e.g. wrong staffing levels/unstable/insecure/lacking in investment and resources; being physically separated from team)
  • Poor management
  • Uncompetitive pay
  • Poor communication (feedback deficiency/loss of direct contact with all levels of management)
  • Lack of promotion opportunities/stagnation/career plateau/boring work/poor job-fit
  • Stress
  • Implementation factors
    • Job fit

Signs of (de)motivation:#

Retention as outcome of motivation. Motivated engineers tend to stay longer. Productivity is affected by motivation. Learning, exploring new techniques and problem solving appear to be motivating,

Models of motivation#

Job Characteristics Theory (JCT) is often cited. But no one model encompassed all aspects identified. Specifically, there seems to be a lack of models that account for what is motivating about the job itself.


Motivation varies among engineers. While most cite the job itself as motivating, Not clear what aspect of the job contributes to motivation. Surveys focused more on organizational aspects than profession aspects. No clear what motivates Software Engineers, how they are motivated, or the benefits of motivating them.