People are your most valuable asset. At the same time, they’re one of your biggest expenses. If your engineering team isn’t performing up to par, you could be losing money at an alarming rate. Just consider this scenario – an employee is stuck for three hours trying to solve an issue that should have taken one hour with the right tools. You’ve just wasted two hours worth of salary and left the employee feeling frustrated.
Now imagine 10 or 50 employees being in this position in one day. Multiply that by the number of working days in one year and you’ll start to see the potential magnitude of this faulty scenario. This is not an unrealistic situation and it’s also fairly easy to prevent. In this article, we take a step-by-step look at how you can improve the productivity of your engineering team by promoting a culture of innovation and mutual understanding.
Research and studies have shown, time and time again, that employee satisfaction has a direct correlation to employee productivity and engagement.
Or as Harter, Schmidt and Hayes put it, “employee satisfaction and engagement are related to meaningful business outcomes at a magnitude that is important to many organizations and that these correlations generalize across companies” (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2002).
There are countless books and articles on how to achieve this, but some practical measures worth considering are:
1. Management transparency
Trust is one of the key ingredients in any good relationship. This has also proven to be true in business. In fact, research shows that management transparency is actually the most important factor in employee satisfaction. Involve your engineering team in decisions that directly impact their day-to-day operations. Treat your team members as good as your best friend and make sure you are genuinely interested in their wellbeing and you might find yourself having a much more productive team in no time.
2. An anonymous employee satisfaction survey
A survey can provide you with quantitative data to continuously measure employee satisfaction across various factors and departments. This will give you valuable insight into what areas need improvement. Through qualitative questions, you can also get ideas on how these areas can be improved upon. Having the survey be anonymous allows for employees to comfortably speak their minds and provide valuable input without the fear of potential ramifications.
3. An open forum
Many companies use an intranet to secure good internal communication flow. Other companies use Slack or a private Facebook group. Regardless of what solution you are using, encourage employees to suggest ideas for new products and processes. Employees that feel heard and valued tend to be happier than those that don’t.
4. Team-building exercises
Studies show that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and how well co-workers get along with each other. Investing in team-building exercises and encouraging a culture of teamwork is well worth the time and effort.
Outdated equipment and tools can frustrate many employees. They can lead to tasks taking longer than necessary and lower productivity. This doesn’t mean you have to upgrade equipment to the latest state-of-the-art solutions all at once. However, you want to make sure that your team feels that you are actively working on making improvements. This will keep your employees motivated and optimistic.
When investing in new tools, services and solutions, you want to have enough insight to be able to make an informed decision. Obviously aspects such as cost vs. value, potential ROI, environmental impact and energy usage should be taken into consideration. But it’s important to not underestimate the impact that this tool will have on your employees’ workday. Just because a tool sounds great in theory, that doesn’t mean that your employees will welcome it.
Review the feedback you received from your employee surveys and forum to identify what’s important to them. Engineers are generally crafty people with a ton of inventive ideas on how to solve challenges. What are their main frustrations? What ideas do they have? Take this feedback into account when acquiring new tools and you will have a much higher chance of making the right decisions and empowering your team. As an added bonus, your employees will feel that you are valuing their input.
New tools often require training. This should be offered to your engineering team as soon as possible. Sometimes it might be worth involving them prior to making the purchase decision as training is occasionally included in the sales process. This will make them feel actively involved in the decision-making process, and assures the implementation of the new tool will not hit any acceptance roadblocks.
If your team is not trained in how the tool or solution works, this may just lead to further frustration. Considering that you’ve just invested in a new tool based on input from your team, you want to make sure that they have the necessary skills to use the tool as intended. Otherwise, all the hard work that you’ve done might be for nothing.
With proper training, you should see a successful implementation of your new tools and the added benefit of improved productivity.
Now that your team knows how the product works, encourage them to explore the new possibilities that come with the tool. Engineers are inventive people, they enjoy exploring and experimenting. This will help them get excited about the tool and may even result in new usage areas being discovered.
Say for instance that you implement new facilities management software. This software offers countless possibilities. By letting your team innovate and explore, they may find ways to use the software that neither you nor the seller were aware of.
Pro-tip: Host a monthly hackathon with the sole purpose of finding new, inventive ways to utilize your tech solutions. This encourages teamwork, promotes innovation in your company and will most likely be appreciated by your engineering team.
While encouraging innovation is an ongoing process, you need to actually implement the new tool at some point. When this is done, you should make sure to have documented processes on how your team should use the tool. There may be more efficient ways of using the tool than others. Make sure this is the standard that everyone in the company uses.
If everyone uses tools and systems in their own ways, you’re not reaching maximum productivity, as this might lead to internal misunderstandings. Furthermore, by having a standardized process, you prevent the loss of valuable knowledge if an employee decides to leave. It will also make it easier to continuously monitor areas that can be improved upon.
After having gone through all the steps mentioned above, you should now be left with happy employees that have access to the right tools, the right knowledge and the right process to perform better. All that’s left for you to do is reap the rewards of your hard work.
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