Written by: Kevin Gardner
It's no secret that the engineers in your organization are the ones who make the product everyone else is working for a reality. It can be difficult as a leader, however, to know how to best support and work with them, especially if your professional background isn't in engineering. Between different tasks, personalities and structural needs, the engineering departments can't be lumped in with the rest of your organization. Here are some tips to help you support them.
1. Make Sure They Have the Tools They Need
When managing any department, it's important to make sure your employees have the resources they need to meet your expectations and goals. Nothing frustrates workers faster than having too much asked of them without also being given what they need to make it happen. Make sure you're regularly communicating with your engineering managers to ensure they have the tools they need to do their jobs well. Ask them what they need to meet each goal, but also talk with them about what should be put in place now in order to be successful in the future when you're scaling or expanding the products. Something like CICD, for example, will help streamline processes both now and down the road. Take the time now to make sure the department is running smoothly so that you'll be ready for crunch time when it hits.
2. Create a Culture of Collaboration
Even though you as a leader see the value of having both a strong engineering department and a strong marketing department, for example, it can be difficult for workers within those departments to have the same perspective that you do. Whether they're vying for additional resources or becoming frustrated with interdepartmental projects, it can be a challenge for them to work together well in the day to day. You can help with this by creating a culture of collaboration. Put leaders in place who will communicate with each other, build strong relationships across the departments and look for ways to support each other. Speak highly of each department so that each one feels respected and sees why the other is needed. Whether you need to spend some time team bonding, creating new expectations for management and communication within projects, or restructuring your teams, find ways to help knock down silos and bring unity between the different sides of the organization.
3. Recognize Their Successes
Often, engineering departments can fall by the wayside when recognition is being given out. Few people understand what they actually do, so as long as the product works, other employees can just move on with their lives without knowing how much effort actually went into making the product. As a leader, you need to make sure you're understanding what went into each product and giving the engineers the recognition they deserve, both privately and in front of the rest of the organization. This also means that you know what their processes and successes look like. Yes, they might have taken longer than originally planned to finish the product, but that could also mean that there are significantly fewer bugs to fix down the road. Talk with your engineers about what their daily work looks like, find out how many hours went into making sure the product was finished and ask about the difficulties they encountered along the way. Not only is this information useful for realistically setting goals in the future, but it's also good information to share with the rest of the organization in order to help them understand what the engineering department actually does.
Your engineers are a vital part of your business. Make sure they and the rest of your organization know this by providing the tools and resources they need, setting a collaborative culture, and giving honor where honor is due. By being willing to listen to and change for your engineers, you'll be helping the entire organization run more smoothly and be more productive.