Happy people are less likely to miss work through illness. Positive people empower colleagues to speak up and share ideas. It makes perfect sense, which is why spreading a little happiness is such as effective strategy for boosting productivity in your development team.
Let’s face it though - giving out free pizza every Wednesday or even establishing an agile development methodology is only scratching the surface. If personal wellbeing and engagement are the foundation, what else should you build on top of it to squeeze every ounce of value out of your developers?
Here are some helpful tips for getting down to the brass tacks of team productivity so that everyone benefits.
Recognise that onboarding new developers is absolutely crucial
How well could you onboard an inexperienced junior developer into your team today? Most people say “not very well” or might even run a mile from the prospect of hiring a junior instead of a senior in the first place.
But if the answer is “very well” then it shows you’re confident about the dynamics, systems, culture, skills and so forth that prevail in your environment. It means you’ve got a common coding standard neatly documented and adhered to, and you trust your people to mentor instinctively.
As far as productivity goes, getting new developers up to speed, and providing a great structure for people to develop, is a means to an end. But it’s also an acid-test showing your potential scope for improvement. Use it to pinpoint where you can be better.
Like it or loathe it - time tracking works
I heard about a development team where nobody’s time was tracked and people weren’t project managed as resources because “having Big Brother watching over everyone isn’t cool.” Much as I advocate safeguarding the sensibilities of creatively-minded developers, we should keep this in perspective. If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it. For all the devastating creative potential that a developer can bring to bear, we would do well to remember that they prosper on this earth getting paid to spend their time getting stuff done. Treat them as professionals, not children.
Aim for tangible ROI from your team’s personal development budget
A team that always strives to learn new things is guaranteed to keep on getting better. The trick is directing this patient, generous and potentially expensive approach into something you can get tangible benefits from. So think twice about writing a blank cheque for personal development and motivate your team to pursue skills and qualifications that make you all more efficient and effective. Invest in their productivity and not just their intellectual curiosity - and it will be more satisfying for all parties in the long run.
Embrace collaboration to break down the boundaries of your organisation
Tuckman’s four stages of group development - Form, Storm, Norm and Perform - were written more than 50 years ago when the opportunities for productivity-enhancing collaboration were far fewer than now. Teams are more virtual, more geographically dispersed. Technology makes it easier to segment tasks so that someone in Dover can play the rhythm while a colleague in Dusseldorf plays the melody.
Collaborating with external software developers is one way to boost your productivity without having to hire anyone onto your staff. Big companies do it to avoid distractions or introduce different skills, just as much as smaller organisations do it to inject strategic impetus and lessen the load. Never having outsourced software development before is no barrier to doing it now.
Help your team see the big picture so that they can help you
Is there such a thing as pushing your team too hard? Developers should be productive but don’t want to feel like they’re mushrooms on a farm i.e. being kept in the dark constantly, except for those rare intervals when a fresh layer of manure is thrown all over them. But this is how it can feel when - as a developer - you’re left to beaver away on your partitioned area of code. Surely it's not healthy to be separated from the project, the user and what the business actually wants to achieve from its software? Promoting greater transparency and inclusion might look like a nod to promoting developer happiness, but (if it makes you feel better) it’s just as motivated by cold-hearted commerciality.
That’s because productivity is about achieving maximum utilisation of resource, and treating developers like the proverbial mushroom patch is a sure-fire way to under-utilise their potential. Think about how many times an astute observation or an innovative thought has accelerated a project by days or week. Don’t miss out on maximum productivity by focusing too hard at the metrics you think will get your there.
Here at Helastel, I dare say like lots of places that do it right, everyone prefers to work in a development team where laughter is heard considerably more than sobbing.
Perhaps these are by-products of an environment where people know what they have to do and like it when they see it achieved. Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes to get the job done.