Managing an all-star tech team begins with the right people–hiring credible people and keeping an open mind about what they’ll bring–and never really ends, if you’re doing it right. In my last blog I shared few of my experiences on How To Create All-Star Tech Dream Team. In this article I’m going to talk about 13 things you can do right now to motivate your tech team.
Who are we talking about?
Millennials now take the largest portion of the global workforce and the percentage is significantly higher in technology companies.
While they’ve changed the dialogue about what people want from work, we’ve reached a state where mild-to-moderate pampering is expected to be a standard part of employment: fully stocked bars, catered lunches, and the occasional team retreats. In startups and big companies alike, these generous, borderline lavish perks have increasingly become the norm, not the exception.
But the question is, does the average worker actually use the Xbox One in the company gaming den, or is he too busy for that? Does she want to edit spreadsheets sitting on that purple beanbag? Are employees really pining for ping-pong tables and more “nap time” at work (assuming their boss won’t give them the stink eye after that)? Or are these perks miss the point of what actually does motivate your tech team?
So what do they want?
Regular Review of Performance Based On Tangible Metrics
‘Of everything we’ve done to enhance employee satisfaction, the greatest impact has come from our daily performance meetings. There we focus on how our team did with key metrics the day before. By highlighting outstanding performances, handing out gift cards to top performers, and aligning daily work with monthly goals, our team chemistry and motivation have gone through the roof’ shares Dan Pennell of WMtek.
This millennial cohort is hungrier for feedback and a clear path of growth than any other generation.
One way to feed that hunger is establishing a mentorship program in which junior employees are matched with senior management. Encourage regular weekly meetings that has a nurturing environment for employees to ask for critique, receive praises, and air grievances. Mentors lead with the responsibility of their mentee’s professional growth – from outlining goals to delivering reviews.
Employees will feel more strongly connected to the company if someone with skill and authority helps them propel forward.
Give More Shout-Outs
Multiple round happy hours or expensive dinners aren’t the only ways to celebrate success. If an individual went above and beyond the call of duty, a simple company-wide email or handwritten note can be just as powerful.
Try dedicating the end of every all-hands meeting to give employees an opportunity to publicly recognize someone else’s work. This sounds simple, the positive impact on a person’s feeling of self-worth and value to the company is priceless.
Rethink Team Structure to Motivate Your Tech Team
A recent Deloitte survey found that 63% of millennials believe their leadership skills are not being fully developed, making them much more inclined to switch jobs.
Buck the trend by creating a structure for new initiatives that gives those who may not be at the managerial level the chance to lead and take ownership of projects. It shows a willingness to invest in your employees’ talent, while increasing their morale and commitment.
While you’re at it, get rid of closed door meetings. Nothing creates a feeling of seclusion – or fuels the gossip mill – like seeing the same group of people whisper behind glass walls of the conference room. If it’s not strictly confidential, talk out in the open.
Turn Perks Into a Motivator
If your company finds itself in the financial position where scaling back perks becomes necessary, consider sharing the cost of providing free lunch or gym memberships so that it becomes tangible figure to employees. 9 out of 10 will be surprised by how high the number is, guaranteed.
As a team, discuss how you can accomplish milestones in order to bring perks back. Miss that monthly team building offsite? Here are the sales figures we need to hit to bring it back. Instill the message that if you want it, you got to work for it. By doing so, you’ll learn very quickly who truly believes in what the company is striving to accomplish, and who is quite literally in it for the free lunch.
When implemented successfully, perks do exactly what they’re intended to do: boost productivity, motivate your tech team and foster a stronger sense of internal community.
Share Good and Bad News Equally
Every company goes through ups and downs. As a venture-backed startup, those ups are particularly high. So founders may feel the downs don’t deserve public attention among their team. Resist this urge. Sharing both the good and the bad with a talented team will inspire loyalty, motivation and even greater happiness when things do go well.
Open New Opportunities For Them
Aside from a great culture, a recognition system and a fun work environment, the key thing to motivate your tech team is new opportunities. For example: tackling a new project for which we may not have proven skills yet. Believing in the team and each individual, and demonstrating it daily, is the best morale booster one can give.
Give Them Work-Life Flexibility
When recruits ask about work-life balance, it infers a 50-50 split. But the secret about the balance is about acknowledging that the pendulum will swing anywhere from zero to 100. And it can change- weekly. Allowing employees to plan ahead based on upcoming work and/or personal deadlines and to get the work done when and where they want makes the happy team and results in better productivity.
At Wolfmatrix, we communicate on Slack and through video conferencing. We also use Trello and JIRA to assign projects and to ensure deadlines are met. Allowing your employees to work flexibly is a sign of trust, and I think they appreciate that.
Treat Them with Respect
Respect is the name and keeping employees happy is the game. ‘Respect’ may sounds simple and may be even clichéd. But it is heartbreaking to see just how many companies and managers still hope to hire the best employees from the talent pool, trust them with all the works and responsibilities, expect them to produce excellent results as a bona fide employee but somehow end up treating them like sleazy shirks whose ultimate goal in life is to cheat the employers. There is no faster way to demotivate an employee than this.
Personally, a tool I swear by to deal strategically with my teammates (who have a diverse sets of abilities and willingness) is the Skill-Will-Matrix.
Have a look at this and you will not again risk micromanaging your employees who simply needed your guidance. You’ll never again increase responsibilities hoping to motivate your tech team whereas all they wanted was a bit of excitement in the job.
Instill A Sense Of Belonging To A Bigger Goal
Imagine this; you have a wagon full of goods that you need to sell in the nearby village. There, a group of merchants are waiting for you. You are leading the wagons from the front and guiding directions. A bunch of guys are pushing the wagon from behind to make sure things are moving ahead.
There are hills and streams and gardens on the way. Flowers blossoming, butterflies flying and trees dancing. But only the leader sees it. What do the guys pushing the wagon see? A wagon full of loads that they need to push until someone comes to buy them!
Yes, the leader is you. The merchant is your customer. The wagon is your company, the goods being your services or products. The view is your vision and those guys are your employees. They don’t see what you see, unless YOU tell them what lies ahead and how beautiful your view is!
Got my point?
Give Them An Appropriate Amount Of Rest And Reward
Keeping staff happy and to motivate your tech team typically boils down to rest and reward. You need to acknowledge the long hours and personal sacrifices of your team. They need the opportunity to recover from the toll that hard work takes. Making sure there is a lull between projects goes a long way to avoid burning out your employees.
Show Them The Results Of Their Work
I find that software development teams are the happiest when people use and appreciate the products they deliver. Pride of ownership is highest when we hear constant feedback from real customers even if such feedback is sometimes negative. There’s nothing worse than working on a product that no customer is using and none of your employees care about.
If you’re looking for engaging top talent, give your team members projects that challenge them, with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow professionally. Give developers the opportunity to touch the whole stack and play with a lot of different technologies. Let them figure out what they like doing before they narrow their focus. Allow them to take the lead on high-profile projects. But make sure they have realistic deadlines and proper support to do a good job. Encourage team members to speak at public events, write articles and volunteer in the community. This will give them a sense of fulfillment and inspire them to be their best selves.
‘My team loves challenges, so I like giving them puzzles, scenarios and project issues to decipher. When they solve it or figure it out, they’re excited and amped to continue working.’ Chalmers Brown of Due shares his tried and tested method.