Tech teams are usually a different breed to the other departments within a business. Just try measuring the productivity of individual software engineers within an ongoing project. Or jump into their lunch conversation about invocation latency and horizontal traceability. It will quickly become clear that the tech team is a truly unique animal. So how should this particular group be managed in order to reach its full potential? Here are some top tips we have gathered from leading technology team managers.
1. Build a farm system
Many experienced managers say that to build the best technical teams, you should hire talent early and in multiple levels in the organization to create a reliable ‘core’.
As you grow, you can put those who have come up through your team into advanced roles. There will be huge efficiencies in getting them up to speed when they can rely on both institutional as well as tribal knowledge.
As long as your core group of experienced staff is competent and confident, this is a fairly low-risk proposition. The weaker your core team however, the riskier this idea becomes, and the more you need to rely on finding new talent.
One tip: commit to training and development for your tech teams. It pays big dividends in productivity and the likelihood that they will stay with you long term.
2. Reward problem-solving
Technical people love to solve problems and build things. Trying to figure out what incentives can foster this fundamental characteristic can be tough. It is a far different challenge than incentivising business people, who are usually motivated by money, titles and power.
Try organizationally elevating the importance of your company's desire to build great products. Products are the basis of your business, so elevating them is not lip service. Then instil pride in your engineers' efforts through company-wide meetings, group messages, or blogs, that show off what they are doing for these products.
Another thing you can do is compensate technical staff appropriately. It's rare that technical people will complain about their pay or demand more compensation. Instead they just leave, often with no warning, for a job with better salary and more recognition.
3. Trust your engineers
Don't ever prescribe how to achieve technical success. Instead, set clear objectives and timelines, from the project level (daily, weekly, monthly) to the team level (sprints, product deadlines, market milestones). Then let them work through how to define and organize the work to meet the objectives. You'll get more energized, enthusiastic teams and better work as a result.
4. Share customer feedback
Technical people respond well to data. Give your team feedback on how their work is being used. But don't get stuck on the raw data, such as number of users; let them know how their work benefits customers.
Talk to customers and your customer support team to gather this information. Make sure the functional teams (product, support, sales, etc.) share feedback they get.
5. Don't overcompensate management
Last but not least, create a system where technical staff don't have to become managers to grow their careers. Most companies pay management the most, on the assumption that managers should have significantly higher salaries than their staff. This greatly overvalues the contribution of managers.
Don't make that mistake with your tech team. Managers are important, but fundamentally the value comes from your technical staff. Pay them well to reflect that value.
There is nothing more valuable for technical people than to be able to control their career destiny by being in a committed meritocracy. Develop a technical hierarchy to reward and recognize technical achievement and capabilities.
About Oliver Parks
Oliver Parks Consulting offers search-based recruitment solutions to the technology sector, specialising in the ERP, CRM, CMS, ECM, BI and Open Source Technology spaces. The firm’s multilingual consultants operate in narrowly-defined niche market segments, enabling them to gain extensive knowledge of the people and companies operating in each technology. Oliver Parks has a proven track-record with more than 100,000 candidates worldwide and more than 300 clients globally.