An IT team is the centerfold of productivity for many businesses. Without this core function, everything can stall, leaving other structures stranded.
A strong IT team starts with solid hiring practices. As you bring on new talent to augment your team, make sure that you are looking for “soft skills” as well. The employees you hire should be able to communicate well, take constructive criticism, and work well as part of a group.
Once you have a solid team in place, you can help make them even better with the following strategies:
1. Invest in Ongoing Training
The tech world is constantly changing, so if you want your employees to stay ahead of the curve, you need to give them opportunities for continuing education. When your employees pick up new certifications, it puts extra feathers in your corporate cap. It also helps boost employee morale and confidence and makes your team more efficient as a whole. There’s also strong evidence to support that when you give your employees more training, they’ll feel more fulfilled and be more likely to stay with your company long term.
2. Create Team-building Opportunities
Whenever you can get employees working together better, that’s one for the team. Try sponsoring team-building events to foster cohesion. You can do these on- or offsite, allowing employees to get to know each other better and trust each other more.
Always ensure that you have goals and targets in place for each team building activity. It’s good for people to get together and have fun, but you want to make sure that you have strategically planned events to bolster the team and the company as a whole.
3. Set Realistic and Achievable Goals
If you want your IT employees to stay motivated and perform, they need to have attainable goals. Get your team involved in the goal-setting process so that they have skin in the game. Make sure that their goals are specific and easily measured. You should also make provisions for assessing progress regularly (perhaps at quarterly meetings).
Goals should be inspiring, but not so lofty that people can’t reach them. If you see in time that a goal is not quite as relevant or helpful as your team had hoped, be flexible. Scrap it and start over. Goals should feel like helpful guides—not rigid protocols or heavy burdens.
4. Run Meetings Efficiently
There’s no way around it—meetings are critical to a company’s success. However, if you’re not careful, meetings can turn into millstones that monopolize time and hamper your team’s efficiency. Hold meetings only as necessary and make sure that you have a clear agenda in place. Set a time limit and stick to the agenda. Limit superfluous conversation that could be handled on a one-to-one basis after the meeting.
5. Delegate More
One challenge with teams is that a few overachievers end up shouldering the lion’s share of the burdens. “Spread the wealth” by being an equal opportunity delegator. As a manager, you shouldn’t be doing anything beyond what you have to do. While there are some functions that only you can perform, many others can be delegated out, allowing you to get to the most critical tasks without feeling overwhelmed and stretched too thin. It also frees you up to think creatively and innovate ideas for growing the company and saving money.
Look for employees who have more time on their hands and shift added responsibilities their way. If you’re nervous about how they’ll measure up, make sure to communicate expectations clearly. Then, schedule a time for them to “return and report.” You may be surprised at how well people rise to the occasion when given the opportunity to do more.
Beware of micromanaging here. While you can assign projects, give people autonomy to execute those assignments in the way they see fit. Ask, “What’s your vision for accomplishing this task?” Or, “Can you get me a written report detailing the steps you will take to execute this project?” Both of these retain accountability while empowering the employee to “own” the task at hand.
6. Encourage Work-Life Harmony
Most IT teams are forever busy, and many of them must staff 24/7 operation centers. When employees feel overwhelmed and overly busy, morale can sag and productivity can plunge. Make sure to allow people frequent breaks. You can even award them with days off for outstanding performance.
As a manager, make sure that you are modeling good work-life harmony. Your example will give people permission to follow suit. If, on the other hand, you’re staying at the office for 16 hours at a time, emailing at midnight, and coming in on weekends, you create the expectation that everyone else must start acting like a workaholic, too. These behaviors can backfire when people get out of balance and end up with strained personal lives. These stresses will eventually come to work with your employees, and you’ll inevitably see productivity start to slide.
Information technology is the epicenter of today’s world so it pays to take good care of your IT team. Work strategically to foster good teamwork, innovation, and efficiency in your IT department. It’s worth the time, resources, and effort to strengthen your team and keep your company on the cutting edge.