Six ways to engage and inspire technology teams

A strong mission statement and an understanding of how their work is applied to the real world are key to attracting and retaining top tech talent

Woman using laptop in hallway

For many modern businesses, technology teams form the backbone of their operations. Chief technology officers are often some of the most prominent and influential members of the C-suite; while web designers and developers, software engineers, data scientists and cybersecurity professionals have become common features of even traditionally non-tech sector companies.

It is unsurprising, then, that the market for top tech talent is so competitive. Whether it is something as simple as being able to respond quickly to issues with your website, or having the in-house capacity for bigger, more complicated innovation projects, you need the right people ⁠– and you need to know how to keep them happy. Here are six ways to do that. 

Communicate the tech team’s purpose – to them and to the wider business

When it comes to employee engagement, few technologists will be able to summon up enthusiasm for the small, incremental fixes they are often called upon to make. So says Kira Unger, CEO and co-founder of legal tech firm, PocketLaw. Their job satisfaction, she says, is likely to hinge on them understanding “how what they’re doing at work fits into a company’s wider vision and impact.”

Strong internal communications, such as staff newsletters for example, that actively recognise technology teams’ contributions, are essential. Rather than just letting tech teams get on with their work in the background, and only calling on them when there’s a problem to be fixed, Unger says companies should aim to shine a spotlight on everything that tech makes possible and ensure that tech teams feel included in and kept up to date with all areas of the business.

Get perks and benefits right

Money is important but it is not the only thing that matters to job-seekers. Particularly when hiring for tech roles, says Annie Jackson, head of talent acquisition at AI-powered personal finance app, Cleo, companies should aim to offer packages that take people’s wider lifestyle and interests into consideration.

She suggests that businesses should conduct regular benchmarking and reviews of the market they are operating in, and adapt accordingly. As well as a good salary, gym memberships, private healthcare and dental schemes are becoming common asks from employees.

Offer flexibility

A flexible approach to working, Jackson adds, is a key component of any successful tech team. Tech roles are creative ones, she points out, and “people should have the freedom and the space to work how they want.”

Giving staff the option to work both from an office and remotely, Jackson argues, will establish an organisation as trusting and leaders as people who respect that everyone works differently. It will also enabling firms to recruit from lots of different areas, without being bound by one physical location.

Consider an employee ownership scheme

Equity in a company, in Jackson’s experience, is an especially attractive benefit in the technology space. “I think, where you’ve got people creating something, they want a piece of the pie they’ve helped to make,” she says.

With technologists in such high demand there is always a risk that rival firms will be looking to poach talent from their competitors. “If your staff have got equity in the company, not only are they likely going to be even more motivated to make sure it succeeds, but it’s a way of encouraging them to commit to it on a long-term basis,” she explains.

Ensure you’re hiring for the right mix of skills

Nick Hegarty, tech principal at global digital product studio ustwo, whose clients include Google and Jaguar Land Rover, says organisations should look to blend different skills and experience levels, while prioritising people who demonstrate a growth mindset, and who don’t assume that they have learned everything there is to know about their field.

“Communication skills are as important as technical knowledge for tech workers,” he adds. “Our teams are working alongside other internal stakeholders every day. Being able to both understand and speak their respective ‘languages’ is critical to ensure tech is rightly considered and used to get to the desired outcome.”

For Unger, it is important that tech teams have a positive attitude of openness, helpfulness and curiosity. She wants her tech teams to want to learn from each other and share their insights. “I would like the team to be able to draw on different perspectives,” she notes. “Having staff from different backgrounds and at different stages of their careers can help with staff mentoring other staff. Younger staff can offer new, fresh perspectives. More experienced hands can share the lessons they’ve learned over many years.”

Map out career paths clearly

Technologists, as a general rule, tend to be ambitious. Jackson suggests that having “a clear progression route mapped out” can be the difference between an organisation being perceived as offering just a job or a career.

At a time where people place a great deal of importance on their “internet identity”, says Unger, job titles matter. “People like to show what they do on social media,” she observes. “LinkedIn is like a public-facing CV and people are keen to update it.”

Technologists are likely to want their job title to reflect their achievements and expertise and should not be too prescriptive. Hegarty says tech teams should look to include people with “deep knowledge in one or two areas”, but who have also had exposure to “adjacent tech”, so they can be agile and occasionally help out other colleagues. “Engineering teams are not strictly engineering teams,” he notes. “Engineering exists in the wild surrounded by lots of other concerns.”

Ultimately, the key to assembling and retaining the best tech teams is to acknowledge their importance. In an increasingly digitised world, every organisation relies, at least to some degree, on having effective technology. 

Tech teams, then, should be actively involved in decision-making and tasked with turning ideas from across the business into reality. “Tech professionals love a challenge,” Unger points out. “It’s good to harness that attitude.”