Engineering leadership | Blog Post
Engineering Resilience: Build Strong Development Teams to Do More With Less
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The tech world is in a state of flux. While there are glimpses of stabilization, many teams are still wrestling with tight resources and hiring freezes. As an engineering leader, you’re at the heart of these challenges, managing low morale as well as the demands of your product and business.
At Terminal, our experience with hundreds of tech companies reveals a common thread: those who are keeping their head above water have built a resilience mindset.
They’re not just weathering the storm but re-focusing and adapting to changing preferences of employees. With the right strategies in hand, you may just start to create a future of growth.
In this guide, we offer up two resilience-building methods:
- Part one: Change the way you build teams: It’s time to consider new employment models and hiring practices. Here, you’ll find strategies for bringing on the right talent, while keeping your budget in check.
- Part two: View resource constraints as an opportunity: Instead of pushing your team to do what they were doing before (with less help), now’s the time to optimize your engineering foundations. Prioritize product reimagining and system health. Automate where possible, and don’t forget to practice ruthless prioritization.
Let’s get started – the resilience you build today will shape the successes of tomorrow.
Part One: Change the Way You Build Teams
Modern challenges require modern solutions. As the workforce evolves, it’s clear that workers are looking for more than the traditional nine-to-five. They’re looking for flexibility, growth, and roles that align with the way they want to live and work. In some cases this means they’d like a more flexible schedule. In others they might be seeking contract work instead of full-time. And, for engineering leaders, this means moving away from a traditional mindset of full-time employees in their desks, five days a week.
In this section we’ll cover a few key ways to change your approach:
- Embrace a flexible working style.
- Build mixed teams with FTEs and contractors.
- Take your talent search beyond borders.
The flexible work revolution
Slack recently dropped some eye-opening data: 94% of employees crave flexibility in their work routines, and 43% of them feel that flexible hours vastly increase their productivity. Despite these loud and clear preferences, many companies have done a u-turn this year, forcing employees back into the office either full-time or three days a week.
Whether or not the office is central to your team, what is clear is that all employers need to consider how to deliver more flexibility. Here’s a few ways to start:
Lean into asynchronous communication
With teams spread across different time zones, it’s harder to bring everyone together at the same time. Embrace communication tools like Slack that champion asynchronous chats and encourage more robust documentation via tools like Notion so people can collaborate when it works for them.
Implement “no-meeting” days or blocks
Variable schedules can mean that some team members find their most productive hours interrupted by meetings. Designate certain hours or days of the week where no meetings can be scheduled, allowing engineers uninterrupted time to dive deep into their tasks.
Try out a four-day work week
If you want to push the envelope, how about trimming the week? This isn’t just a treat for your team: 73% of employees say a 4-day workweek leads them to be more productive. By emphasizing quality work over clocked hours, a four-day rhythm can offer a refreshing work-life balance.
Build mixed teams with FTEs and contractors
Many team leaders today have little to no budget for hiring new full-time employees (FTEs), but there may be a bit more leeway for part-time employees or contractors. This can be a positive solution – by diversifying how you hire, you can not only bring on fantastic talent with new ideas and approaches, but also achieve operational agility without breaking the bank.
Why hire contractors?
- Get support when it’s needed, without a long-term commitment.
- Access specialized skill sets tailor-made for particular tasks.
- Make faster progress by focusing contractors on the highest priority projects.
How to balance a mixed team effectively
- Plan for both the core and periphery: Think of your FTEs as the backbone or core of your team, managing critical tasks and carrying the essence of the company culture. Contractors can then be brought in for specific projects or to supplement when demand peaks.
- Define roles and expectations: Clarity is critical for mixed teams. Ensure FTEs have well-defined roles that encompass leadership and mentorship. Set clear tasks for contractors so they can hit the ground running and focus on what they’re best at.
- Hire for fit: When you’re on the lookout for FTEs, prioritize cultural fit and long-term potential. For contractors, it’s all about skills and adaptability.
Terminal offers both full-time developers and contractors depending on your needs. View talent for free or contact us.
|4 tips on managing contractors successfully |
Hiring is just half the battle – when new contractors start, it’s important they feel connected to the team and totally clear on their work.
1. Define roles and responsibilities: Clearly outline what is expected of the person, including specific tasks and any associated deadlines.
2. Provide essential resources: Make sure contractors have access to the tools, information, and people they need to do their job effectively.
3. Regular check-ins: Schedule periodic meetings to review progress, address concerns, and adjust priorities if needed. Also establish open channels for regular updates.
4. Feedback and recognition: Contractors are people, too. Recognize their accomplishments, provide constructive criticism when necessary.
Take your talent search beyond borders
Hiring globally is a no-brainer for engineering teams, and most today have at least a few team members from countries outside of the United States. Bringing on developers with diverse backgrounds injects fresh thinking into the team and reduces costs, with lower salaries resulting from lower living expenses in different parts of the world.
To get started, check out our ebook with best practices on global recruiting:
6 Ways to Hire Global Talent the Right Way.
Part Two: View Resource Constraints as an Opportunity
Let’s face it: the mantra “do more with less” can feel more like a burden than inspiration. Instead, why not look to reframe the challenges your team is facing into opportunities for growth? In this section, you’ll find strategies for engineering teams to find efficiencies in their work, direct energy to growth areas and turn problems into developmental exercises.
Build in monitoring and observability practices
Lean times are an opportunity to put more emphasis on monitoring and observability. A keen eye on performance metrics, error rates, and system uptimes can provide insights into potential performance issues and ensure that you’re focusing resources where they’ll have the most impact.
Reframe product challenges
Monitoring may reveal that certain features aren’t performing. Or, a lack of resources may necessitate shutting down a product that’s not a high-performer. These seeming setbacks can be transformed into constructive exercises, into developmental puzzles waiting to be solved.
Here’s a few ways to approach this:
Feature deprecation and migration
Q: What’s the migration plan?
Exercise: When deprecating a feature, think about the transition experience for your users. Create a detailed migration guide, which includes step-by-step instructions, video walkthroughs, and FAQs. Ensure that the transition process is smooth, minimizes disruptions, and offers users support throughout.
Q: What observability/monitoring needs to be added?
Exercise: Develop a dashboard or integrate monitoring tools that keep an eye on the usage patterns of features planned for deprecation. This will provide insights into areas of potential friction during migration. It can also help identify if users are struggling with new features, indicating where more user education might be required.
Q: What will existing customers use instead?
Exercise: Map out alternative features or products that can address the same customer needs. Consider if there’s potential for a more appropriate feature to fill this void. Engage with customers through surveys or interviews to understand their specific needs.
Bring automation into your engineering practices
By offloading repetitive tasks to automated processes, engineers can focus their talents on true problem-solving and innovation. But, successful automation does require thoughtful implementation and continuous improvement – here are some practical tips to consider:
- Start small and scale: Begin by automating simple, repetitive tasks that consume unnecessary time. Once these are running smoothly, incrementally scale up to more complex processes. Opslevel recommends some tips to get started.
- Choose the right tools: Invest in tools that are well-supported, have a strong community, and can integrate seamlessly with your existing technology stack. Tools that offer good visibility into the automation process are essential for troubleshooting and optimization. Revelo shares best-in-class CI/CD automation tools for your team.
- Automate QA: Integrate automated testing into your development cycle to identify issues early. Leverage automated unit testing, integration testing, and regression testing to maintain high standards of product integrity at every release cycle. Here’s 15 tools to consider, including E2E testing tools like Cypress.io or Playwright, visual testing tools like Chromatic, and more.
Practice ruthless prioritization
80% of outcomes are a result of 20% of activities, according to the Pareto Principle. Understand what brings the most impact and focus the team on these tasks. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can help categorize tasks by urgency and importance, allowing engineering teams to automate strategically and focus where they truly make a difference.
Engineering Resilience Means Moving Forward Even With Headwinds
Resilience isn’t about standing still. It’s about being ready to change and learn as you go. The approaches we’ve talked about—like augmenting teams with contractors, hiring globally and embracing new methodologies and automation—aren’t quick fixes. They’re smart, long-term plays that will keep your team innovating and performing at their best, even when the going gets tough.
By staying flexible, prioritizing wisely, and keeping an eye on the big picture, you’ll be able to lead your team to not just make it through but to thrive in uncertain times.
Terminal can help provide flexibility by giving you hiring flexibility. We help you save 40 to 60% in cost by opening up more cost effective global talent pool. We also help you hire up to 40% faster through our always-on recruiting pipeline, ensuring you have great candidates immediately for your roles. Get started by viewing talent today, or contact us for more info!