Being the team or group leader is sometimes a bit narrowing the view concerning the needs of your employees. You will be faced with the budget. The budget is limiting your possibilities for solving the every days work issues. Whether your budget has a volume of 1 million bugs or 1000, you still have to think first about the needs of your team in my opinion.
Otherwise, you might face the ultimate enemy: Demoralized coworkers. Morale is crucial to keep the flow whether the tasks are within daily operation services or research and development. But how can we raise morality with the limits given by the company?
First of all, the easiest way is to go to your people and look what they are doing. I do not mean in general, I mean specifically right now. Talk to them. Take some interest. Ask what might be hindering them in their tasks. Observe them and ask yourself what you would mislike and question them if they feel so as well.
Invest in their efficiency and save their nerves
Investments are the allocation of money to get profit. More or less. But this profit is sometimes not really measurable. We are looking now for ways to invest into your people and improve efficiency and increase working morale.
I give you some example of useful investments for efficiency: How old are their computers? How old is their peripheries? Like literally, how old? There are companies that do not put money into their work equipment. But think about a keyboard or a mouse having been used for ten years by several different people. Every morning you get into office and find the same old disgusting mouse to work with. It is a small gesture to buy new periphery for all in all 50 dollars for keyboard and mouse but it is worth it. It does not have to be the non plus ultra gaming periphery. Maybe a simple duet of Lenovo or Cherry standard mouse and standard keyboard for 30 dollars is already enough to turn the tides.
As another general method to improve productivity for the team is to change hard disc drives from old magnetic head technology to solid state disks (SSDs). Depending on their tasks the work at computer is mainly focusing on Word or Excel or even scientific programs. Starting a program will take some time and here SSDs can play a huge role. Due to its special logic circuits, they are much faster in response time and can transfer and react faster than usual hard disc drives. It sounds a bit like magic but it makes a difference, a huge difference. In the companies and institutiones, I have worked in so far, I always pressured on upgrading the computers with SSDs and whether it was student, internship or coworker, they were happier than ever. Costs in recent times are around 30 to 40 dollars for 240 GB SSDs which is for non-engineering office work sufficient. The actual price highly depends on general customer demands and production levels.
So let us make an arbitrary example here: A worker starts around 10 programs each day. A SSD will save him on average 3 seconds here per run. This makes in a average working month with 20 working days around 600 seconds or 10 minutes each month or 2 hours each year. Counting in a labour cost of 30 $ an hour, this investments pays already quite easily back.
Daily Opportunity costs
The same efficiency measures can happen for lab workers. Take a bit of time to follow the work in the labs even if you are not entitled to understand the work personally but show some interest for what they are doing (and honestly, you should do this always!). Ask them some minor details without getting on their nerves. Honestly, that can turn to a fine line.
I give you an example of improving lab work. If they leave the room and come back to get this one special tool, ask them why there is not this tool in the same room. And whether you should not order this special screwdriver or whatever they were looking for in the other room. This is an investment in a tool for sure but it also marginally improves the efficiency of the team and it states “Employee, I value your time!”. You are more important than a screwdriver to me. It might sound funny but in the other case the screw driver was more important than the co-workers time.
Still, there is some math left to show that such investments pay off: 1.5 minutes getting out of the room and 1.5 minute getting back to the room, screwing and then bringing it back again. Let’s say you saved 1 minute each, so 2 minutes in total and your employee earns 30 $ an hour. Everytime he or she screws around (pond intended), you are saving 2 $ for the company because he will catch it and bring the screwdriver back again. Let’s say he does this action twice a week for 50 weeks a year this already means a saving per year of 200 $ with a tool that might have costed around 20 $.
And it is worth the small effort, not just because of having new stuff. It is about showing that you care. You are the person of direct connection to the company’s hierarchy and values. So the question if and how long a well trained personal stays, is highly depending on none other than you.
The suggestion scheme
Of course the attitude of your efforts is linking to its success. If you stand behind your worker and observe them like a hamster for each of their steps, it will hinder the process you have started. Because it signals that you might think they are doing something wrong.
Bring your ideas into a system. Open an table sheet put in the columns “idea”, “description/benefit”, “origin by” and “status”. This will be your workhorse. Make them check this table often and discuss the ideas in meetings. Improve yourself by valuing their personal opinion. Most people are very well trained and experienced in their work and know much better than anyone else how they would run their process better. They are experts, treat them this way and they will flourish for sure. Even consider the negative nancies of your team. They are usually very frustrated due to a reason. Challenge them directly and ask what and how they would run things differently. Fill in the upper mentioned table with them and make some of their suggestions happen. They will run out of negative steam soon. Hell yeah, they might even smile one day.
The simplest way to show respect
And one very last suggestion to value your employess with your coworker is quite easy: Learn to say “thank you”. Learn to say “well done” or something similar. Also, this is an investment. You spent maybe two to three seconds more but it might safe the whole day of one of your coworkers.
The spirit of a group is always determined by the way that the members work and respect each other. If you show them, how you cherish their work, they will learn to cherish each other’s work. It will improve the efficiency of the team. Just be sure that you do not always cherish the same person all the time. Envy can turn your positive attitude to ashes.