Building & Retaining World Class Tech Teams
Building a world-class organization with high performing teams and employees involves three key factors: people, culture, and process. Exceptional teams play a large part in determining the efficiency and overall success of an organisation which is why businesses are so eager to continuously grow and improve their teams through efficient business growth.
But building high performing teams which are efficient, collaborative, and cohesive can be challenging, so how can businesses ensure they are providing an environment that enables high performing people, an inclusive and collaborative culture, and structured processes to flourish? Find out some of my biggest tips for tech leaders currently looking to grow and sustain their own world class tech team, rooted in my own 15 years’ experience working with growing businesses.
The Three Pillars of Building Exceptional Tech Teams
As I mentioned above, building world class teams is built on three important pillars: people, culture, and process. An organisation needs to be strong in all of these areas to truly build exceptional teams. Here I’ll dive into what I mean with each.
People Underpin Every Tech Teams Success
To build exceptional teams you need to hire exceptional people. Hire candidates with strong growth mindsets, a good attitude and the ability to creatively solve problems. But you can’t just hire A* candidates, you need to enable and empower them to do great work and to continuously learn and develop, providing them with clear progression routes amongst other things. Fundamentally you should be nurturing employees who show leadership potential, coaching them and guiding them to become your future leaders. Note that it is not always your highest performers who make the best leaders, and your best leaders won’t always be your highest performers from the most obvious perspective. It’s your job to identify these potential future leaders.
The primary hindrance to hiring and retaining top talent is two-fold: competition and accidental hiring of weaker talent (who in turn hire even weaker talent). Therefore, to hire and retain top talent, you need to have attractive and efficient culture and processes strongly in place.
Culture is Key in Tech Teams
Having a bottom-up culture will empower and excel people to high levels of excellence by allowing all levels of an organization to become a part of the decision-making processes and helps make everyone feel a large part of the goal. This inevitable means your teams will become more invested in the business succeeding as they play an active role in ensuring that success. Having this bottom-up culture helps to build a strong transparent organization that prioritises accountability, ownership and trust, within a psychologically safe space, and maintains these principles as core values.
It’s also fundamental to enable a space of diversity of thought and people, and to do so, you need an inclusive culture. Diverse experiences of your people create diverse ideas, and you need to support a culture that allows people to express their ideas freely and without fear of being judged or just overlooked. Fostering a psychologically safe environment in which one can acknowledge mistakes and express their opinions without fear of judgement is crucial to facilitating growth and setting the norm for taking accountability.
Process is Critical to Ensuring High Quality Delivery
Structure is key to consistent, high quality delivery. The overall aims and goals of the business should be well defined and achievable but with a high expectations for quality, and to underpin these umbrella goals, there should be an unwavering focus on collective understanding, measuring and driving impact. Clear and concise processes that are accurately communicated across the full business are key to operating high performing tech teams and ensuring consistent, quality delivery.
Essentially every process in place should support the hiring of exceptional people and maintaining a great working culture, which in turn pushes all employees to strive for excellence and work towards a common business goal, in which they are all heavily invested.
Tips for Building Exceptional Tech and Digital Teams
Based on over a decade of experience working with IT leaders to build high performing tech teams, I’ve collated a few top tips for leaders and decision makers who are building, growing or scaling their tech teams.
- It all Starts with Great Leadership
Great leaders are strong and decisive, but also approachable and humble. They are confident in their own work but can recognise someone else’s value, ideas and impact without feeling threatened. As a leader they should be passionate about the company vision and able to inspire others to feel the same and motivate them to work hard and strive for excellence. Additionally, leaders should be able to drive the standards of tech teams to new heights, nurture budding leadership talent, monitor team wellbeing and health, and communicate clearly whilst creating a culture of accountability, ownership, trust, and psychological safety. A leader leads from the front and is actively involved in driving teams to success.
Having great leadership to uphold great culture is so important to attracting, retaining, and nurturing exceptional talent, and thus building exceptional tech teams.
- Concise Communication
Effective leadership and effective collaboration all starts with great communication which ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal. However, a common mistake with communication is assuming everyone knows what we know. This assumption can be very damaging to effective delivery. Good communication is frequent, focused, tailored and isn’t just one way and is underpinned by the ability to actively listen to others, control emotion, evaluate non-verbal cues, and to convey respect in every conversation.
When communicating lots of detailed information, it’s fundamental to keep it as simple as possible and take the time to answer questions. This will enable more focused collaboration and collective working towards a goal, creating a more efficient, high performing team environment. Straight talk will always out-perform complexity as it enables team assuredness and peak performance through the avoidance of overcomplication and confusion.
- Belonging to Something That Matters
High performers thrive on seeing how their contribution affects the overall business goal, and it’s therefore important to get team members invested in the vision from day one. If they’re not, they are likely to become disinterested and disengaged. Even from the interview stage you need to give them something to invest in, something to be passionate about, and most importantly a role to play in the success of the business. Create a workplace where people are both motivated by the work they do and can see how their effort is connected to the big picture. Leaders need to effectively communicate this connection to their teams so that all team members feel inspired, that they are on a mission and know that what they are doing is of great importance.
- Build a Culture of Trust
A team is nothing without trust that works both ways. Directors should trust their team leaders to lead, team leaders should trust their teams to work, and the teams should trust their leaders to be transparent and approachable. Mistrust can lead to a lack of cohesion and a subsequent disruption to delivery. In environments rife with second guessing, secrecy, and micromanagement, cultural issues quickly arise, and businesses will start to see exceptional talent leave in favour of better cultural environments elsewhere.
Leaders should model the behaviour they expect, refrain from micromanaging, and be honest and supportive of their whole team, whilst building in a culture of ownership and accountability, without having to constantly check up on their team. Some leaders say trust needs to be earned, instead give them trust from day 1. If you can’t trust your team why did you hire them? Finally, you need to listen to your team. Share feedback and always have an open line of communication.
- Appreciation and Gratitude
Working hard, hitting targets, meeting deadlines, and finalising deals might be part of the job, but it’s still important to show that you appreciate and value your team members dedication to the business. Simple things like saying thank you or well done for a great job or giving someone an early finish as acknowledgment of lots of extra time put into a task shows your gratitude and that your staff are valued. It’s also important to have clear, transparent payment and progression structures, so that team members can see where they are heading and what they are aiming for. Having these clear structures in place will attract people to the role initially as they can see the progression and should retain top talent whilst also motivating them to continue working hard as there is an attainable reward.
- Nurture your Top Talent
If you look after your people, they will look after your business. Getting to know them and understanding their personal goals and strengths will allow you to really help them grow into their next role. For this you need to invest time and money into your talent, from training and coaching, to frequent performance reviews, to tools that will help them excel. For those demonstrating leadership and growth potential, give them a minor leadership role or ask for their input into a new problem or project to challenge and push them.
Finally, consider being flexible to your teams needs. If they need flexitime or remote working options try to be hospitable to their needs. Forcing someone unnecessarily into the office five days a week isn’t worth losing an A* employee for. Especially as your competitors will be offering them this flex.
Hiring Top Tech Talent to Build World Class Tech Teams
Based on my own experience of working with clients who are growing tech teams, here are some of the biggest lessons I have learned.
- Slow down – be smart about hiring and build your organisation sustainably
- Never prioritise quantity over quality - always hire exceptional talent
- Invest in your talent – grow managers and leaders internally where you can
- Empower your talent through a culture of ownership and transparency
- Set high standards and expectations and communicate this clearly across the business
What would you add to the list? Drop a comment below or get in touch for support building your world class technology and digital teams with Maxwell Bond, the specialist recruitment partner of choice for perm and contract staffing solutions across the UK and Germany.
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