TThe rapid growth of the SaaS industry, the popularity of e-commerce, and the increased availability of global internet connectivity have catapulted businesses into the digital era. As companies transition from analog operations to digital solutions, tech teams are rising to the forefront as key players in business development. Business leaders are now left scrambling to perfect their skills in managing the most technical of their teams.
What do tech teams do?
Technical teams are responsible for the development of organizations’ technical products. They originally operated in more supporting roles; however, they are now finding themselves responsible for high-value digital products and services. As more and more products and services are turning digital, such teams are now in higher demand than ever before.
Key challenges facing tech teams
While opportunities abound in tech and IT, tech business leaders and their teams are being challenged in new ways.
Some of the major challenges they face include:
- combating burnout
- reducing talent churn
- keeping up with tech developments and closing skill gaps
- balancing productivity and agility
- enabling collaboration with non-technical teams
While some of these challenges are a result of forces beyond the control of companies, there are opportunities for leadership to be more proactive.
How do you lead a tech team?
The trend towards digital transformation has many organizations focusing on scaling up to meet demand. However, pressures brought about by a global talent shortage are forcing many into an uncomfortable position: stall growth and profitability or push forward with undersized tech teams.
While many tend toward the latter to secure immediate gains, the fact is that tech talent is a precious asset. Balancing the need for financial growth with employee health and well-being takes a deft hand and an understanding of what motivates tech workers. It requires skilled management that knows how to keep their talent happy, productive, and loyal.
While every business context is different, some things are applicable across the board. Here are our 5 management tips to get the most out of your tech teams.
Prioritize tasks judiciously
While it’s true that tech talent is becoming harder to come by, this doesn’t mean that forcing more work on existing teams is the only way to stay competitive. Excessive workloads and short deadlines contribute to burnout. While smaller tech teams are more agile, they often come with certain limitations. Leadership that fails to recognize this is well on the way to losing one of its most important assets.
To make workloads more manageable, prioritizing tasks is a must. It’s important to focus on high-value targets and optimize the allocation of tech team capacity. Certain tasks may fall by the wayside, but by carefully knowing where to devote efforts, you can balance your output with your team’s well-being. Doing so can make your teams more productive, improve retention rates, and make workflows more efficient.
Incentivize creativity and problem-solving
Many devs get into software not because they hear it’s lucrative or because it’s in demand––they do it because it’s who they are. Developers are natural problem-solvers at heart, and to do their jobs well takes no small measure of creativity. Rewarding tech teams for creativity and problem-solving supports innovation and improves employee loyalty.
Sometimes, it’s not just about money. The psychological and emotional impact of having their work acknowledged and valued goes a long way towards making your teams happier and more productive. The more valued they feel, the less likely they are to leave. That said, tangible recognition of great efforts like pay-bumps or bonuses are also worth looking into.
Make tech teams part of customer success
One of the key problems that tech professionals run into is indifference to customer success. When they’re separated from business concerns, like customer outcomes, tech team efforts can sometimes miss the mark. Making them stakeholders in customer success shifts the focus from fulfilling customer requirements to deeper, more useful questions, like:
- “What is the customer trying to achieve?”
- “What does the customer need to achieve their goals?”
- “What can we do to help them?”
By centering the customer’s needs, you can get your teams working more productively to solve issues your customers may not even be aware of. This creates high-value products that improve customer satisfaction and sharpen team effectiveness. It can also make your tech teams more aware of their value to your company, a common pain for tech professionals.
Support opportunities for learning and development
Many tech professionals are curious by nature. Learning new things excites and delights them. One of the most frustrating things for adventurous tech talent is seeing opportunities for learning new skills but being unable to take advantage of them. This is one of the factors currently driving churn in tech teams.
91% of tech workers actively want more opportunities for training and skill development from their employers. It’s no surprise that companies like Meta, Google, and Microsoft have the biggest and best tech teams around, when they invest millions every year in Learning and Development (L&D) for their employees.
Setting up L&D budgets and creating the necessary infrastructure to support employee education takes time and resources. Long term, however, it can create a more knowledgeable native talent pool, improve the quality and productivity of your tech teams, and support better ROI.
Create opportunities for cross-functional collaboration
One of the limiting factors for tech team productivity and career growth is siloing. While traditionally tech teams have often operated in closed units separated from other arms of business, this has also kept tech workers from realizing their full potential. As tech professionals gain experience, it’s common for them to take on senior roles in the organization. These roles require them to work cross-functionally with other teams and to communicate technical terms to non-tech stakeholders effectively.
Creating opportunities for your tech talent to work more closely with business teams and other operational departments can make them more well-rounded employees. It also promotes knowledge sharing between departments, helping to create a more cohesive work environment.
Empowering your tech workers to become more knowledgeable about other areas of your business creates opportunities to address technical needs and creates paths for career growth within your organization. This in turn improves talent retention and cuts the cost of external talent acquisition at higher levels.
Where to focus your efforts
Improving your team’s happiness and job satisfaction are essential to building sustainable tech capacity and improving productivity. The added benefit of this is creating an environment that attracts skilled talent, making talent acquisition and retention easier. Creating an environment that attracts talent and supporting your existing talent’s growth should be top priorities. To learn more about developing your native tech talent into tech leadership, check out our article here.