As the holiday season approaches, many managers look for ways to express their appreciation to their IT team. However, if you want your employees to genuinely feel valued, you have to look beyond the acknowledgements that you typically dole out this time of year.
Often, to show your staff that you value them, you need to make an effort to ensure they feel heard, and this can’t be accomplished if you only focus on it during the holidays. If you want to make sure your IT team knows they are valued, here’s what you need to do.
Say “Thank You” Often
Managers are typically overtasked. This means it is easy to forget how your team keeps projects and daily activities moving forward, as it’s just part of the day-to-day. However, by actively trying to remember to thank them for their contributions, you demonstrate that you value what they have to offer. Plus, it shows that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed and that they are appreciated.
It also helps to extend your thanks beyond yourself. Let your team know when stakeholders appreciate the results of their efforts as well, especially if they don’t have an opportunity to interact directly with other leaders or customers.
Be an Active Listener
You can’t make your IT team feel heard if you spend the entire conversation merely waiting for your chance to speak. While you plan your response, you miss critical details in the discussion, and this can cause your employees to become frustrated if their input was ignored, even if it was unintentional.
When your employees speak, make sure to focus solely on listening. Take in every word and wait for a natural pause before you even begin to formulate a response. That way, you won’t miss a vital part of the conversation and your reply can be more meaningful.
Give Them Challenges
While every IT role comes with a certain level of monotony, giving your employees a chance to stretch outside of their comfort zones or take on a challenge can actually show that you value them. By allowing them to use their unique talents to take on something new, you demonstrate your trust in their abilities and interest in helping them grow.
See Them as Individuals
In IT, functioning as part of a team is the norm. This makes praising the group more common when a job is well done since multiple people were critical to the overall success of the project.
While recognizing the team’s efforts is wise, you also want to see them as individuals. Highlight each person’s achievements to make them feel seen and single them out if they truly went above and beyond. This ensures that every employee understands that they are valued for what they bring to the table and not just what they can accomplish together.
If you would like to know about how you can show your IT team you value them this season and beyond, the professionals at The Armada Group can help. Contact us with your questions or thoughts today and see how our workplace expertise can benefit you.
You earned your promotion because you successfully applied your skills in your previous role, but the management role is very different from a hands-on technical role. Cranking out bug-free code isn't your job anymore; motivating your team to crank out code, making sure they have the resources they need, and negotiating time, budget, and requirements with business users will fill your day. Here's what you need to do to help your team (and you) succeed.
Recognize That Things Have Changed
Sometimes the promotion comes with a new job or a new project, and it's obvious things are different. Other times, you're asked to step into the lead role on the same project you've been working on. That can create a tendency to keep doing what you were doing, and to interact with the team the same way you used to. Don't allow that to happen! Make a conscious decision to refocus your time on business problems, rather than technical problems. You may also need to change how you interact with work buddies who are no longer your peers; you need to create a relationship where they accept, respect, and work towards the direction you give.
Management gets things done less by sheer technical, analytical, or business skill than by building relationships that allow them to collaborate with others and persuade others to do things a certain way. Don't isolate yourself behind your desk with spreadsheets; attend meetings in person when possible and always introduce yourself to other attendees. If you're a typical techie, your interpersonal skills could use some work, so take classes that help build your ability to communicate on paper and in person.
Focus on Business Needs
You've probably got a specific project you need to deliver, but the way to make the biggest impact on the business is to focus on the business's long-term strategic goals. Be prepared to suggest ways your technical team can contribute to meeting those goals beyond the current deliverable. Business management lacks the understanding of changes in technology that can support different ways of doing business, so take on the responsibility of envisioning and selling the role of technology.
Whether you're looking for your first management position or have mastered the skills needed to work as a senior executive, The Armada Group can help match you to an opportunity that will stretch your capabilities. Contact us to discuss your career goals and learn how our recruiters can help you achieve them.
Teams that are well-managed have a better chance of succeeding at their projects. Take advantage of these four ways to change the way you guide your tech team and improve the performance of your team.
Make yourself unnecessary.
The more independently your team can work, the more time you can spend working on strategy and achieving your own professional goals. Don't stint on training. Bring on strong leads. Develop a project management process that staff can look at to see their goals, deadlines, and next priorities. Empower your team to interact with your end users; not only do they know the application best, these interactions will help them understand the users better and lead to a better application.
Most managers are buried under a deluge of emails, but often the most important information is hidden between the lines. Be aware that you may not get honest answers in meetings, so seek out private conversations where people can speak freely. Make sure meetings remain focused on the agenda rather than sidetracked by other issues; schedule another meeting if you need to follow up on another matter. Have an open door policy so your team feels free to come to you with their concerns.
Many technical managers come from the development role; they were promoted based on their technical skill rather than their management ability. Take an honest look at your capabilities and knowledge; managers succeed more on business knowledge and interpersonal skills than their programming ability. The better you are at your own job, the more effectively your team will perform.
Focus on the positive.
Projects fall behind schedule; production problems bring the wrath of senior management down on you. It's easy to focus on negativity and the problems you're experiencing, but it's important that your team experiences and celebrates success. Make sure everyone on your team understands the goals for the current week or quarter and what your vision of success is. Then, make sure you acknowledge and celebrate it when your team makes progress in achieving it. Your team will develop positive morale that helps them get the job done.
Managing your team well starts with building a strong team. The Armada Group has spent 20 years connecting employers with talented employees. Contact us to learn how we can help you build a strong team that practically manages itself.
If the members of your development team came off an assembly line, with identical skills and personalities, managing them would be so much simpler! The team would automatically be compatible, and the same rewards would motivate everyone to do their best. But team members don't come off an assembly line, they each have differing skills and personalities, and one of the biggest challenges for managers is figuring out the right way of interacting with each unique team member to achieve a successful result.
The Tech Geek
Some team members are all about the technology. They'll argue the reasons you must adopt the dot-19 version of a library instead of continuing with the dot-16 version you're currently using. They'll swear the latest technology that's barely made it out of the lab is the only thing that will let the business beat out its competitors.
Get the most out of these geeky team members by giving them the chance to show off their technical chops and prove the benefits of those new technologies through small pilot projects. These developers are also the folks you should ask to build the most technically complex, critical components of your application. Make sure they know you appreciate the value of new technology and of their skills, within the context and confines of the project needs and schedules.
The Independent Thinker
Even though agile development teams define their own processes, not every team member buys in completely. When you have a developer who goes their own way, it becomes much more challenging to track project activities and ensure a high level of quality.
To bring these independent thinkers into line, make sure their voices get heard in the meetings where team processes are discussed. If they deviate later, remind them that they participated in the definition of the process, and that it's important they adhere to the procedures they agreed to at the time.
The Deadline Misser
Getting code working right is tough, and some developers consistently struggle to meet their deadlines. In some cases, this is because they just don't have the skills for the job, and you may have to take corrective action. In other cases, it's just that – like most developers – they're overly optimistic when giving estimates of how long work will be. If there's a pattern of missed deadlines, have a talk with the developer to see whether they need training in programming or in estimating, and be sure to add buffer into their estimates, so future projects more closely match to reality.
Development teams need all kinds of skills and personalities. If there's a gap on your team, The Armada Group's boutique staffing services can help you find the right new hire to make your project succeed. Contact us to learn more about our staffing services.
Managers are busy. It's tempting to communicate with your team via email blasts and team meetings, where you can talk to everyone at once. Fitting one-on-one meetings into your schedule is important, though, because email doesn't convey tone and people may say things in private they wouldn't say in a group. So once you've managed to squeeze a one-on-one meeting onto your calendar, be sure you make the most of the opportunity.
The best one-to-one meetings take place in person, in a quiet location where you won't be distracted. If you can't meet in person, like with remote staff, that doesn't mean you're limited to email; make use of the other communication methods the Internet supports, like Skype. As with in-person meetings, make sure you're in a quiet place. Before making any Internet calls, make sure you have all the software you need installed. Test it out before the first time. If you can't complete an Internet call because of technical glitches, it's frustrating for the other person; they may feel their time was wasted and you don't value their time.
Put aside your cellphone and stop checking emails for the duration of the meeting. Have a plan for the discussion; this time is too valuable for a rambling conversation. Because these meetings should be about what the employee needs, you may want to have your employee prepare an agenda of the points they'd like to discuss.
At the same time, don't be all business. One-on-ones give you a chance to connect on a personal level with the people on your team. Without stooping to gossip, make sure you're aware of their personal situation so you can interact with them as a person, not just as an employee.
Listen closely to what the employee tells you. Keep it confidential when appropriate, but also be sure to take action where needed. It's worse to have a meeting and ignore acting on an employee's requests than not to have the meeting at all.
These meetings should be regular, but you can also schedule a follow-up meeting to touch base on progress. And even though one-on-one conversations should be routine, don't let them become routine. Make them interesting and valuable for your employees, so they want to keep talking with, and working for, you.
Code is an artifact. Despite what you may think, the job of an IT employee isn't to write code. The job of an IT employee is to come up with the ideas behind the code. The brainwork is the most valuable part of their job; actually typing the code is mostly mechanical.
Encourage Productivity and Improve Morale
Developers need a quiet environment to write the best code; these days, it's unlikely you'll be able to give them real offices with doors, but at least give them partitions high enough to block out a lot of noise.
It's not just about noise, though. For developers to do their best work, they need minimal distractions so they can focus and concentrate. That means reduce unnecessary interruptions. Reduce the number of meetings, and make sure they have a purpose. Don't send emails to the entire distribution list if only one person needs to respond. Encourage your team to get out of the habit of checking emails constantly. Give workers flexibility to adapt their jobs to their lives by allowing them to work from home occasionally. Don't micromanage. Basically, just leave your employees alone to get the job done.
The benefits of leaving IT employees with time to think go beyond getting code done faster and with higher quality. IT employees are intellectual workers who enjoy thinking and solving problems. Leaving them alone gives them time to focus on these mental tasks they enjoy, meaning they're happier at work. It gives them autonomy and demonstrates your trust in them, which feels good. Making your IT team happy and improving morale means they're likelier to stay with your company; considering how difficult it can be to replace a highly skilled technical employee, that's a big value to you.
New Thoughts, New Ideas, New Products
Plus, giving employees time to think means giving them time for new ideas. New ideas can mean new, better ways of performing business processes or translate into new products and new profits for your business. The information technology industry depends on innovation, and most innovations come from the employees, not the managers. Which isn't to say that managers don't come up with useful ideas, also. If you reduce unnecessary meetings with your team and reduce your involvement in issues your staff can handle, you free up your own time for thinking as well. What value will you create for your company with that extra time?
Performance reviews are a key part of the management job, but they're not something all managers enjoy. Even a positive review is stressful for an employee, and negative reviews … well, not every employee appreciates constructive criticism. Sometimes employees get defensive, or even hostile, when they receive negative comments. How you respond to that reaction can make a big difference in your working relationship with that employee going forward.
First, make sure the employee understands the goal of the feedback. Unless the performance has been so bad the employee is at risk of being fired – and you should have a first conversation long before it reaches that point – the goal is to help them succeed. State this upfront, and establish that you will work with them and support them to make their success possible.
… and then get their opinion. It's possible there's something about the situation that you weren't aware of that might change your perception. Even if it doesn't, you need to understand how they see it. You may not be able to argue the employee out of their point of view, but you'll be able to tailor your approach more effectively.
Make sure you don't interrupt the employee during their response. Cutting them off can be seen as disrespectful. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions, as well as their words.
You don't want to argue with the employee, but if they disagree or deny the accuracy of your evaluation, be prepared with examples that support your opinion. Also, be ready to present suggestions to help the employee address those problems.
If the employee continues to deny the problems, it may be better to continue the discussion another time. Suggest the employee take time to think over your feedback and schedule a continuation of the discussion for a day or so later.
When you have that second discussion, make sure the employee understands the consequences of not taking action to correct the issue. If possible, speak about the positive benefits of achieving the change, as well as the potential negative consequences if performance doesn't improve.
Lastly, make sure the employee knows it's not their responsibility alone to fix the problem. Some problems can only be corrected with help from outside resources like an Employee Assistance Program or training in specific skills. Offer your employee these options, as well as your support, in order to help them improve and succeed at work.
Every succeeding generation is more tech savvy than the previous one. The PC hadn't even been invented when baby boomers started working; early boomers had to adapt to PCs with on-the-job training, and even late boomers only encountered them in college.
The latest generation, the millennials, is far more comfortable with technology than its parents and grandparents. Companies that want to attract them, whether as customers or employees, need to use technology in ways that appeal to them.
Companies Need Social Media Savvy
Surveys show that lack of awareness of the business's brand is a major hindrance to recruiting. But companies' talent-branding techniques focus on traditional media. Few of them effectively use the digital media and social media technology that communicates to millennials in other aspects of their lives.
Millennials document their lives on social media, and they expect social media to document a company's life, too. That means the corporate job site needs to be more than just a listing of jobs. It needs to introduce the company culture, through photos and videos of real employees talking about life on the job.
Use every social media channel out there—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever new trending site comes along—to post images that convey the experience of working for you. Normal, everyday activities like team meetings and lunch in the cafeteria should be displayed as well as official corporate special events.
Mobile Tech is Mandatory
Besides using multiple social media channels, companies need to make sure their digital information works well on multiple platforms. Millennials have given up landlines for mobile phones, and most rely on mobile tech for accessing online data. A website that doesn't work well on phones and tablets isn't just ineffective for company recruiting; it's likely to push away candidates you want to attract.
Millennials aren't threatened by technology; they see it as a tool that supports innovation. Companies that use cutting-edge technology and emphasize this to their potential hires will have an advantage in recruiting the best talent of the newly dominant generation.
Moving from a hands-on role to a manager's role means a big change in what you do on a daily basis. It also means a big change in how you relate to co-workers, especially if you now manage former peers. Here are three tips to help you adapt and succeed in this new role.
Draw on Your Experience, but Continue to Learn
The most important thing to recognize as a new manager is that you don't actually know how to do everything the job requires. Your technical skills will help with some aspects of the job, like developing project schedules and deciding if an application is ready to release, but the management role requires other skills, like budgeting and conducting performance reviews, that may not have been needed previously. Plan to take the necessary training and find mentors to help you continue to develop.
As an individual contributor, your success was evaluated solely based on your own performance. As a manager, your success depends on the success of your team. It's important to get team members to buy in to project priorities and deadlines, which means setting goals clearly and being open to feedback. Make sure the team knows you're open to their opinions by having an open-door policy. Some team members may hesitate to speak out in a group setting, so seek them out for one-to-one discussions.
When things aren't going well, get the team's perception of the problem and their input on ways to improve it, rather than dictating a solution or imposing a new process on them. Be sure to celebrate the team's success, too; you don't want them conditioned to expect bad news when you walk into the room.
Support Other's Development
Your success as a manager may inspire others to aspire to management roles. Encourage team members to grow and develop skills, technical and other. Take the annual goal-setting process seriously, and help team members set goals that are achievable, and will benefit them as well as the company. Create an environment that supports learning, by encouraging training. Mentor team members to help them develop. Helping your team develop their skills will make them stronger contributors, increase your team's success, and help you climb the management ladder.
Information technology teams are often eager to work with the latest technology, but they aren't always that eager to work with new processes, which are seen as management fads with little benefit to the technical workers. If the team doesn't support the new process, it may fail, reinforcing that opinion. Managers should take steps to get the team to buy into the new process, so they are invested in its success. Here are some steps that will help your team buy into a new process and help it succeed:
Explain the process and stand behind it
When you talk about the new process with your team, your belief in it has to be evident. If you aren't able to convincingly explain what the new process will achieve, the team won't be motivated to make it work. If you can show the team how the new process will benefit them – not just you or the business - that's even better. Even the most dedicated employee has a little bit of "what's in it for me?" inside them.
Don't be a dictator
Even if you're the one mandating the new process, if you take input from the team, they'll feel ownership of the process and want it to succeed. When someone offers a good suggestion, integrate it into the process. Also, realize that developing a good process requires iteration. Be willing to modify the process, once you see how it works in reality.
Don't mandate a new process and then wait for a final report. It may take time to fully roll out the process, and you need to be aware of how the team is responding each step of the way. Have regular feedback meetings, and let the team know that getting feedback is a priority. If you're not hearing any complaints, don't assume everything is going fine. Schedule one-on-one discussions with different team members to get their opinions; you may get feedback they weren't comfortable offering in a public forum.
A team is also more likely to believe in the value of a new process if they hear about benefits from a peer, not just management. If the new process is rolled out over time, rather than implemented across the entire company simultaneously, non-management employees who found the change to be positive can become evangelists for the change. Let them spread the good news to your team and share their excitement. They can get your team excited about the change, too, which goes far beyond simply accepting the change, and is much more likely to make the change succeed.