After our previous post about the gap between hiring tech talent and getting things done, we wanted to give you some practical tips to avoid this situation. As an engineering manager or the one responsible for an important engineering project, what can you do to make sure you’re prepared for any potential risks around engineering resources?
It starts with assessing your current situation. Are you aware of any engineering tasks within your project that can turn into major risks? And do you have a strategy in place to avoid this or solve it when it happens? If the answer is no, then the following 10 questions will help you to do a self-assessment of your engineering project.
Do we proactively identify tasks in the planning stage that tend to become risks based on resource availability?
Better planning helps! Here’s the story of a manufacturer of a complex product that requires mechanical, electrical and software components. Based on experience he knows that when peak demand occurs it will be difficult to secure engineering resources. Determined to avoid this pain this year, he proactively approached Tasker. Platforms like Tasker have access to available engineering resources whenever you need them. He can now focus on converting sales to revenue and not worry about the peak load.
What has been the opportunity loss due to lack of engineering resources?
Apart from being late to hit the market and thereby losing a substantial market share in revenue, there could be several other factors that can harm your projects. Think of loss of goodwill, churn of existing customers, loss of team morale. Or what about the wastage associated with the time a team is waiting for engineers to onboard before they can perform a task?
Learning organizations need to have mechanisms to periodically assess these opportunity losses. And don’t forget to attach a monetary value to it.
Do we have enough granular information about the engineering tasks that are becoming risks?
The challenge for most engineering managers is that they are so deep in the work that they struggle to define the task to be done. When they need extra engineering resources they will start their search by posting a job description.
As we discussed in the previous post, there’s a difference between hiring for a job and hiring for a task. Jobs are often about finding the perfect fit for the organisation. However with tasks, it should be driven by the desired output. You should know what set of competencies are needed for these outputs. That then will lead to the person who can give you that.
We all want to work with team players, self-starters, people with strong social and communication skills, etc. But what engineering skill or expertise is critical to perform this task? Start with that!
How do we map the required competencies across these tasks?
Organizations with mature HR practices have a system of mapping the required knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) for specific roles. This also helps ambitious engineers in your team to determine what certificates, nano-degrees and achievement badges they should focus on. Start by defining and mapping these KSA’s in time for the tasks that determine the success of your projects. What competencies do you have in your team and which ones are a risk?
Do we have a way of internally or externally addressing issues with engineering resources?
Now that we know what competencies are crucial for important tasks, you can use these insights in your search for additional resources. Whether this search is internally or externally.
Platforms like Github are using similar concepts in the resourcing of talent for software assignments. So how do we do this for internal and external engineering resources?
Do we choose external resources based on their rating across critical competencies?
It’s not enough that your organization has the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) data, the question is: can you use it? And how do you determine how strong a candidate is?
The KSA data should always be combined with a trust and capability rating from peers and supervisors who have with worked with this person. This information should be built into the system.
Are you aware of the availability of external engineers at short notice?
The availability of critical engineering resources, especially freelancers, is a key question. Whenever there’s a problem you need to act quickly, so who is available to jump in immediately?
Most procurement, HR, PMO’s or engineering managers don’t have this information available. Avoid having to call around to people you know to check their availability once your project is already at risk.
Do you have access to a talent pool of trusted engineering resources?
It’s easy to assume that the right person needs to have experience in your industry. However, the logic to solving an engineering challenge might be similar in an unrelated industry. Which means that your potential pool of talent that can help you is much bigger than you’d think.
This is where platforms like Tasker can help. We recently helped a company in the machine industry by matching them with an engineer who had a background in wind energy. Given the critical competencies that were needed he was actually the perfect candidate to give them the output they were looking for.
Who in your organization drives resourcing for critical tasks and is there a risk for potential conflicts?
Ever had to fight for resources in your organization? You probably have. Every company is structured in a different way, but when it comes to resources, there are many stakeholders who want to have a say.
When you see an important task turning into a risk you don’t want to waste time and money waiting and going through the processes. Try to get an understanding of the bottlenecks in the organization before this happens.
How much of engineering resourcing is still driven by ‘Ask a friend’?
The traditional way of hiring someone to work on an engineering task is to ask a friend. Who do you know who could help out? And it’s easy to bring in someone you’ve worked with before and who understands how you work.
But does this practice also benefit your organization? Again, are you hiring them for the right reasons? Is it about individual relationships and because it’s easy, or should it be about delivering the output? I think we all know the answer by now.