Ultimate Guide to IT Project Management & Talent Retention
IT projects are some of the most complex endeavors a business can undergo. Getting it right requires strategic coordination and top-tier organizational skills. You also need great IT project management at the helm to steer the ship and course-correct as needed. Failing to appoint the right leader for your IT team will only leave the company vulnerable to missed deadlines, low-quality work, and an overall chaotic work environment. That’s why, in a labor market where employees are empowered by choice and information, an unstable workplace can quickly result in hemorrhaged talent.
IT project management involves the planning and execution of IT projects. It also entails opening communication channels and reporting on the projects. Properly implemented IT project management won’t only attract the best talent to your workplace, it’ll also ensure they never want to leave.
Common Challenges of Software Development Teams & How to Overcome Them
IT teams in different businesses will have different goals. This makes it difficult to find a good IT project manager, as you will occasionally need a very specific set of skills. Regardless of what niche your business is in, there are common problems faced by IT teams everywhere. In your search for excellent IT project management, ensure that whoever is in charge is capable of leading your team around these standard obstacles.
The most common issues that arise center around communication—or the lack thereof. The leaders of your business may not always understand the unique issues that IT professionals face. Sometimes the tech jargon makes things too wordy, and other times there just aren’t any opportunities for the teams and upper management to collaborate. Unfortunately, a lack of communication is a surefire way for problems to go unsolved. Some employees find this so frustrating that they end up leaving altogether.
This problem can be alleviated by having a project manager who can bridge the gap between the IT team and management. The project manager should stay in consistent contact with management and communicate the IT team’s issues in layman’s terms. Furthermore, the project manager should be able to effectively communicate to the team what the expectations from management are. The communication shouldn’t stop with management, however. Good IT project management keeps the IT team connected with all the different departments of the business. With clearer communication comes greater efficiency and a more productive workplace.
All IT teams have to deal with deadlines. They don’t have to be a source of anxiety if there is a good schedule and strategy in order. The IT project manager also helps teams stick to timelines by delegating the right team members to the right tasks for maximized efficiency. Furthermore, they can establish a detailed project plan that outlines all of the milestones that should be reached on a timeline that ultimately ends on the final deadline date. The project manager can use this plan to gently but firmly guide the team toward the deadline without inciting overwhelm.
Misalignment Between the Team and the Client or Project
Sometimes, problems arise when there is a misalignment between the team and the clients. In some situations, there is a misunderstanding of the goals of the project or what its scope or budget should be. Other situations involve mismatched timelines and expectations. Good IT project management prevents this from ever becoming a problem. The IT project manager should have clear communication with the client to fully understand what they’re after and then be transparent about the team’s abilities to deliver it. Using this information, the IT project manager can then design a game plan that includes a timeline, budget, and scope that the team and the client can both agree on.
Lax Quality Assurance
While every member of the IT team sets out to do their best, it’s hard to identify problem areas without a bird's eye view. This is where having an IT project manager is useful. They can utilize their top-down view of the project to identify bottlenecks or areas that call for improvement. Furthermore, the IT project manager can organize quality assurance tests on the end product to ensure it is up to standard.
Quality assurance is important if you want to ensure clients stay happy. It is also an important part of cybersecurity. This has become a growing threat as businesses embrace hybrid workplaces and remote work. Ensuring IT team members have access to the best software is essential to protect your business’s sensitive information even when working from home.
Lack of Documentation
Documentation is mission-critical for any IT team. Notes regarding the coding of past projects are essential for new team members who wish to continue working on the project. Failing to document projects as they unfold only stands to confuse members, waste time, and bring projects to a screeching halt. Thorough IT project management is the best medicine for all of that.
The IT project manager can design a style guide for documentation. Having a format for all team members to stick to makes it easier to document new coding and to read past documentation. Making things easier for your employees removes unnecessary stress, giving them less reason to leave.
Keeping Up With Technological Change
IT teams also have to grapple with the ever-changing technological landscape. There are always innovations and updates to consider. Although many of them are designed to make life easier, it can also be difficult to keep up with it all. Additionally, team members also have to learn new skills. With IT project management, this problem can be mitigated. The IT project manager puts themselves in charge of doing the appropriate research to ensure that software development teams always have access to the latest tools. They can organize the necessary training to ensure that team members are never stuck with obsolete skills. This benefits you and your employees.
Your team should consist of people from all walks of life, including those from different generations. This is an overall net benefit, as diversity in the workplace increases the flow of new ideas. However, it can also cause tension when people have differing views on how things should be done. IT project management must bridge these gaps by piecing together everyone’s personal and professional experiences like a puzzle. In doing so, you retain talent from both groups and get the best of both worlds.
Learn Talent Management Strategies From Consulting Firms
Acquiring the talent to build the best software development team takes effort. While coding and other IT skills have become somewhat ubiquitous, finding people who can do them well is a whole other beast. It can cost a lot of money to recruit talent and entice prospects to your workplace. Consequently, once you have them onboard, you don’t want to lose them. Employee retention is no easy feat either, but it requires far fewer resources than acquiring new talent.
Talent management strategies revolve around seeking the best employees and ensuring they want to remain loyal to your business once they’re onboard. It begins at the recruitment stage. You need to put out the right ads to ensure you attract the correct candidates. Offering higher pay and bonuses is a part of that, but you should think bigger. Your talent management strategies should also feature ways to help your employees develop their skills and advance their careers.
Promote Mentorship and a Collaborative Culture
One of the ways to retain your talent is to make employees feel as though they are gaining a lot of value from the workplace. You do this by offering mentorship programs and the opportunity for employees to learn new skills. This is especially important in the constantly-evolving realm of IT. Through training and mentorship programs, not only do your employees become more qualified, but your best talent also has one less reason to leave. It also affirms to your employees that you’re committed to their long-term success, which in turn invites long-term company loyalty.
Abundant opportunities for career development and improvement
One of the reasons why businesses struggle with employee retention is because workers feel like their career is stagnant. What’s the point of gaining new skills and working hard if you’re going to be stuck in the same position? Naturally, employees will begin wondering whether they can achieve a more senior position elsewhere.
You should give your employees a full outline of the structure of the business and the pathways to promotions and higher positions. It shouldn’t be left ambiguous, and employees should be able to set goals for themselves. Furthermore, employees should have access to the facilities to build on their skills. This can include workshops, mentoring programs, and short courses.
If employees see a way to build a long-term career within your business, they won’t feel forced to leave. The longer your employees stay with your company, the more you stand to benefit from them. As employees move up the ladder and spend time with your business, they gain crucial experience. They can then hand down this knowledge to new workers to help them hit the ground running. This can be applied to all members of the IT team, regardless of whether you’re dealing with an IT consultant or a software programmer.
Recognize and Reward Appropriately
Your employees are human beings with emotions, and they take pride in their work. They are motivated to work harder when they receive praise for what they do and are compensated accordingly. Showing hardworking employees that their contributions to the business are valued will make them feel like what they do is meaningful.
In the very next breath, not all employee reward systems are created equal. Employees can see through hollow tokens of appreciation such as cookie-cutter emails or employee of the month awards. Monetary bonuses for good performances should always be available. Not all rewards need to revolve around cash, though. You can also reward employees by giving them additional time off, extra workplace privileges, and promotion opportunities.
Develop Leaders with Leadership Training
Many of your employees have big career aspirations. Some may even hope to hold leadership positions one day. This is a good thing, as your business needs strong leaders at all levels to be successful. Implementing employee training such as manager soft skills and IT project management courses is beneficial to your employees, as it equips them with the tools they need to advance in their careers. Not to mention, you get to benefit from it, too. Leadership training strengthens your team and deepens your internal talent pool.
Monitor Performance and Regularly Provide and Ask for Feedback
There are more than enough reasons to motivate you to constantly track the performance of your employees. This isn’t a way of upping the stress IT team members feel. Instead, it helps you identify problem areas and employees that may need help. By correcting these problem areas quickly, the entire workplace is constantly made to perform more efficiently. You need to determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) are relevant to your business, then use them to track how your employees are faring.
Tracking performance also gives you the ability to provide your employees with adequate constructive feedback based on data. Using this information, employees can then work on improving their weak points. This is the first step in turning a good software developer into a great one. The relationship shouldn’t be unidirectional, either. Employees should also be able to provide feedback regarding the workplace and the challenges they face.
Nurture a Holistic Employee Experience
When you implement a holistic employee experience, employees feel like more than just faceless cogs in a machine. Rather, they feel like a legitimate, valued part of the team. This can be achieved by fostering environments where employees have more in-person collaboration and human experiences.
You also do it by listening to feedback and implementing changes to achieve an ideal workplace. Provide employees with individualized training that caters to their strengths and weaknesses. This helps them to become overall better employees. Lastly, pay attention to the workplace culture. Does everyone have a sense of belonging? Is it a collaborative one, or are people isolated? You’re only as strong as the weakest link, after all.
Provide the Best Tools for Their Needs
Moreover, it’s incredibly frustrating for employees when they go to work but don’t have the necessary tools at their disposal. It’s also counterproductive to use outdated manual methods when automated systems are a dime a dozen these days. Neglecting to equip your team with the tools they need to succeed can very well send them into the arms of your competitors.
There are no two ways about it: investing in the right tools and tech today will save you big tomorrow. This can come in the form of software that aids team organization, time management, and communication—like Slack and Asana. It could also come in the form of training (internal or outsourced) to help them adjust to the dynamic IT landscape.
Top Talent Retention Strategies
When embarking on strategies to retain talent in your IT team, be sure to keep a flexible attitude. As with IT project management, you may have set ideas on how the workplace should look or how things should operate. These ideas, however, will need to adapt to align with the greater needs of your employees. Adopting new ideas keeps you innovative and your employees happy. This ensures you always have the best workplace benefits to offer to retain the talent you’ve already invested so heavily in acquiring.
Not to mention, applying talent retention strategies will help your business in the long run. Though offering bonuses and training may sound expensive, they’re well worth their weight. Replacing talent costs organizations 33% of an employee's annual salary! Save money down the line by investing in who and what you have today.
Employees care about a lot of things, and money is one of them. This is becoming more important as inflation increases the cost of living. Needless to say, if you want the best talent, you’re going to have to offer competitive market rates. Pay attention to the average salary for each position and ensure your team is being paid fairly.
Still, employee compensation goes far beyond base salary. Bonuses can incentivize employees to reach specific goals. Additionally, consider benefits like medical aid, paid maternal and paternal leave, and retirement plans. With the steep cost of healthcare, employees will appreciate having access to quality, affordable medical aid in their time of need.
Talent retention can also be improved by offering perks. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Benefits as simple as a gym membership, time off, and training opportunities all give your talent good reasons to stay. One of the biggest things modern employees look for is a flexible workplace. Thanks to the pandemic’s quarantine requirements, employees got a taste of working from home, and they’re not giving it up.
As such, you can satisfy your employees by providing a hybrid workplace where they can switch between office and remote work. To do this effectively, you need the appropriate software to ensure teams are in sync regardless of where they are.
Promote Work-Life Balance
As much as your IT team may love their jobs, they also have personal lives to tend to. One of the things employees value the most is the ability to maintain a good work-life balance. If work consumes the bulk of their time, they never have the chance to destress. Burnout is one thing a healthy paycheck just can’t combat long-term.
That’s why time off, holidays, and weekends are so important. Your employees deserve their fair share of time away from work, after all. That means being considerate of the unexpected emergencies that come with having a family, too. Sick children, deaths, and other problems can arise at a moment’s notice. Giving employees the peace of mind that they will not be penalized for taking time off to handle personal matters goes a long way in retaining talent.
Give Them Autonomy
It’s important to ensure employees are given adequate support. However, it is possible to take this too far. When employees feel like there’s always someone looking over their shoulder, they feel more stressed and less free to act. This ultimately fosters an unproductive, unbalanced work environment.
Strike a balance where support structures are available but employees still enjoy autonomy. That means allowing employees to make decisions without constantly needing the thumbs up from management. When people feel like they have control over their work, they’re more likely to take pride in it and stick around.
Recognize Hard Work, Especially High Performers
Your employees go above and beyond for your business, whether that be putting in extra hours or waking up early to meet clients. Though they are often driven by passion, you can’t endlessly exploit these ambitious workers. Undervalued IT team members are in a prime position to be scooped up by competitors. Don’t be surprised when they take the bait.
So, recognize hard workers in your business. This can be done through performance bonuses and recognition plans. Fast-track dedicated workers on the promotion path. Show appreciation for employees who have been loyal to your business. Has an employee been part of your team for five years? Congratulate them with a special celebration or a loyalty bonus.
Mentorship programs pose incredible value in unlocking your team’s potential and overall IT project management. Have seasoned employees pass down their hard-earned knowledge to newer, less experienced employees. That way, you enjoy a more skilled workforce that perpetually passes the baton internally.
Software Development Team: Growin Solution
Getting an effective IT team together is no easy feat. As demonstrated, it requires exceptional leadership and an IT project management strategy that considers the needs of the modern employee. You also need to prioritize talent retention, or else you risk losing top talent altogether. Although it’s possible to tackle IT project management on your own, outsourcing to an industry authority like Growin is the way to go.
Outsourcing IT Project Management & Talent Retention
Whatever your needs, Growin already has access to the rich IT talent pool you’re after. We’re also always training our talent, so you can rest assured they are well-equipped with the latest skills. By outsourcing your software development needs to us, you gain access to the talent pool we’ve spent years curating.
Growin is the best solution for small businesses and companies looking to scale. That’s because we specifically craft teams to cater to your business. These teams can be scaled to meet changing demands in real-time. Contact Growin to learn how outsourcing your IT project management stands to save you and yours big.