Your team needs more than a salary and a task to be effective. Ignored, the everyday stresses of development are enough to torpedo most efforts. Here’s six cost-effective ways that can help keep your development team happy and efficient.
A productive team meets goals, and clear goals guide efforts and help identify scope-creep before it’s too late. Keep the SMART acronym in mind:
- Specific—Answer the five big questions: who, what, where, when, and why
- Measurable—Choose one or more tangible milestones to measure progress
- Achievable—Ask if you have the tools and time necessary to accomplish the goal, or find out how to make them available
- Relevant—Confirm the goal meets the needs of your business, program, or service
- Timely—Realistic deadlines instill a sense of urgency and facilitate the creation of milestones
More than ever, teams are often scattered about the country and rely on several systems to stay in touch. This is manageable until teams or “islands of individuals” start making decision in one channel—say, email or a private Slack channel—and then forgetting to inform anyone outside of that channel about the decision.
This creates a situation where people feel out of the loop and prone to logging time on suddenly irrelevant tasks, killing productivity and stoking resentment.
Maintain a single point-of-truth for discussing key decisions, changes, and milestones. Make sure everyone affected by those decisions has access. Email is ill-suited for this task, as no one wants to scour through a 75-message thread for a decision made 2 weeks ago. Slack, Rocket Chat, and various other platforms built for team communication allow for easy creation of such channels.
Specify roles and tasks for each team member, and encourage them to ask questions when they arise. Assigning everything a “high” priority is equivalent to giving everything a “low” one. Once you’ve established what level of quality you expect, get out of their way. Trust them to deliver until they give you a reason (or two) not to.
If they succeed, provide prompt feedback. Be specific with your praise or it will sound hollow—”Thank you for blowing that deadline out of the water” sounds a lot better than “You did a great job, thanks.” If they fail, ask for reasons and, if possible, come up with a plan together.
Provide Team-Building Activities
Nobody enjoys “mandatory fun,” but a short, weekly activity and help relieve stress and nurture relationships. It need not necessarily be a “field trip.” Softball teams and cider mill excursions are fun, but can be time-intensive. Consider short board games, fantasy leagues, or even just Google “short team building activities” and take your pick of the litter.
The maxim, “Train them like they could leave, but treat them so they choose to stay” has plenty of merit. If that one doesn’t move the needle, then consider the cost of not training your developers. Technology moves quickly. Any develop worth hiring is acutely aware of this fact. If your company doesn’t provide opportunities for learning, then they will find a company that will.
However, training your employees isn’t merely a way to curtail the cost of turnover. It also exposes them to new ideas, trends, and diverse opinions. The more diversity you accept, the more adaptable your organization will be to the unexpected.