If you run a team of engineers (whether you’re a CTO, CEO, Product Manager, Lead Designer, etc.) you might notice that over time some of your employees start showing less motivation in the work they do. Deadlines start to slip, meetings are shrugged off, and in extreme cases, features are shipped full of bugs. Here’s how you can start to shake things up to avoid an unhappy workforce.
Consider outsourcing certain tasks
Are your engineers spending countless hours replying to low level support questions? Are there projects that could have a significant impact on the business but are currently being ignored given other priorities? It might make sense for you to invest in an offshore team that can handle some higher level tasks before involving your core engineering team.
The key to successfully outsourcing web development projects is appropriately vetting the team you ultimately bring on. While initially you do need to put in some time to interview your prospective offshore development team, many of these professionals have a lot of experience in solving exactly the problems that you have. In the long run, the cost savings could be tremendous and your in-house team will begin to sense that you value their time.
Assign different types of projects
You may think that the best way to optimize your developer’s time is to assign them to one specific project or task. For most of us, motivation dwindles if we’re doing the same thing every day. Google famously implemented 20% time to allow its engineers to work on whatever problems interest them most, 20% of the time.
Try allowing them to work on other projects of their choosing, especially if the work they normally do is not very creative or innovative in nature. Are you experimenting with new ideas? Has your sales team been requesting features that are constantly put off given your massive roadmap? Can your marketing team use some help on the website? Prioritize this list and let your engineers work on solving some new problems.
You probably have a mountain of feature requests you need to attend to, but if you start to notice that certain processes are becoming someone else’s full time job, it might be time to invest in automating these processes.
As enterprise software continues to grow in popularity, there’s bound to be a solution out there that can automate at least part of your business — solutions that improve functions like infrastructure monitoring, rapid prototyping, versioning, etc. are designed to allow your talent to focus on the most important part of their job — moving the business forward.
When considering new software to implement, always consider the amount of time you might save for your developers. A solid engineer can command at least $100/hr for their time — do you really want them spending this time doing none mission critical work?
Distribute pain evenly
As Philip Su’s suggests in his Quora article, if you have one or two dedicated developers working on bug fixes or answering support tickets, you might want to implement some kind of rotation process that assigns this responsibility to other engineers so that everyone on the team gets to work on the exciting part of your business.
If rotating responsibilities isn’t possible, consider publicly recognizing employees that are tasked with monotonous work. When I worked for Yodle, people were constantly singled out by getting free lunches or a round of applause for being the first person to schedule 3 appointments after a long day of cold calling. For people like me who hate cold calling (I’ve only met one person that actually enjoys the process…my old boss, Matt…he’s a beast) it was a great motivator to get through the work.
With many technology businesses a lot of time the buck stops with the engineering team — remember, they’re the one’s that have to make sure that everything’s running smoothly, even if it means waking up at 3:00 am to investigate a server issue.
Consider testing out some of these approaches to ensure that you have a more productive, motivated, and engaged engineer team — it will be worth your time investment.