Building The Team

As a software developer looking to grow my own business I’m facing the quandary of hiring people. It led to my suggestion for the first meeting.

How do you find the right people?

Do you go to a recruitment agency and hire people that way? A sure fire way to increase costs from the agency and in my experience have no one filter the CVs or test the candidates. They will often fire CVs at you and let you work it out from there. No-one benefits in that sort of arrangement and the agency still take a fee. They are playing a numbers game; simply harvesting CVs and getting them to the client fast to beat the other agencies.

Maybe you could look to hire overseas by outsourcing a project to a remote team, in India, for example. I’ve heard many stories from other people who have found this to be very time consuming and it’s difficult to get the right message across to the remote team. After all, they have no vested interest in understanding your business so you’ll need to spend time managing them and answering questions that they may not even ask. If they are in a remote country, don’t under estimate the time difference issues as well. You may have a ‘quick’ question or important point to make but your remote team may not yet be awake so you have to sit on that until they are ready for you. On the plus side, it is a cheap option but can you trust them with the code base or will they pinch what they have developed and take it elsewhere into their own business?

Keeping Them Focused

Will the people working for you have the same enthusiasm? Can you really expect that? As one of the group pointed out, graduates are keen to learn new technology and gain skills which will serve them in their career. Certainly in the IT world I tend to see that the right people are the ones who are keen to learn and progress. It’s tricky to find that out at an interview although someone did suggest asking candidates to explain a process to you. It could be a process from a previous job or maybe something not work related. If they are able to communicate something clearly to you there is a chance that they will work / fit in well with you and be able to make themselves understood.

How To Motivate / Retain Them

It’s not just about the payroll I hope! Maybe different people need different things to fire them up. Communication is key here. How often have you worked in an organisation and very soon from the start you find that you have defined responsibilities but you don’t really see the benefits? Does anyone care about what you’re doing? Of course they do, but managers often focus on fire fighting and getting other things done without realising that the team needs to be motivated. In the IT world when you’re taking issue after issue from the burn down list and fixing bugs you are often faced with whats left rather than reflecting on what you have achieved. Have you ever had a day where you cannot recall what you’ve been doing in previous days or weeks because you’re more worried about what you need to get into the next sprint?

Motivation is really important and that could come from management or it may be your co workers. People tend to work in open plan offices these days but I find that communication is pretty poor. The number of sprint meetings I’ve been to which turn into a conversation is surprising. However, those conversations must be had – nothing wrong with a lean coffee meeting eh? Dare I say it a beer on a Monday to help build the team for the week ahead is also good.

Setting A Team Hierarchy?

Do you want a hierarchy at all? A flat structure can mean that there are no barriers to people talking to you but as the team grows you may need a bit of shielding from day to day concerns if your time is needed elsewhere. Do you need a team leader? Should the team leader be appointed by the team? Should this change according to the project? Maybe it should be rotated a bit like having an apprentice style project manager for each task. Some people don’t relish the responsibility but they might be the best person for the job.

What is more important, skills or personality?

I like this item. The most gifted people in terms of skills are not necessarily good at playing in a team. You may find that they learn all the skills and keep the lessons learned to themselves. This is no good for the team but if you have a very strongly defined project and can rely on one person, it could be an option. However, you are risking a lot if that one person should decide to leave the project or try and sting you for a salary / wage rise.

There are very few people involved in IT who cannot learn new skills but some are clearly better / faster at learning them than others. The best people I’ve worked with have all been sociable, keen to impart what they know and easy to get along with in a team structure. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them all.

Others are technically brilliant but when they face challenges they are reluctant to share the problem and get a different perspective. Skills are important but they can be learned. Personalities are crucial but I guess you need a balance of both for a new project or you’ll find your time being eaten up as you bring new recruits up to speed.

Our next meeting will likely be early March 2016. If you’ve liked what you’ve read and would like to meet the group for a social drink and a lean coffee / beer then please like the post and get in touch.

Regards, Andrew