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Lifting up junior team members

Leading your team of young developers: 5 tips for helping them grow within their careers

Piper Thomson
software development
© Shutterstock / Mintr

In order for junior developers to succeed, ultimately it is the responsibility of the current team leads to pass on the skills they have. Giving your developers a leg up and teaching them on the job is a sure way to help cultivate them and lead them towards success. Learn how to adapt new skills and have an agile team that not only adds company value but reaches their personal potential.

One of the worst mistakes a company can make is to neglect to imbue their junior team members with the skills they need to establish themselves as leaders.

The general landscape of technology is always shifting and changing to the tectonic shifts of new advancements being made every year. Because of this, jobs in development have unique demands when it comes to learning and personal growth; the rote execution of tasks will rarely be enough to satisfy the demands of the industry. Learning how to quickly adapt to new skills has become increasingly important, and with that comes the necessity to have an agile, independent team that can adopt new IT skills as well as add surprising value to the company as a whole.

SEE ALSO: DevOps report card: Security must be part of the software delivery cycle

Developing the developers

Often, senior team leads will assume that they don’t need to cultivate the soft skills necessary to. They may think their presence means it’s unnecessary to invest the time and effort in these supposedly “secondary” skills. In many ways, this is just as important as the hard technical skills that get them their jobs in the first place. After all, failure to cultivate the talent you’ve recently scouted could easily lead to them leaving your company, requiring you to start the exhausting cycle of hiring all over again.

A study by Gallup found that the demographic making up most young professionals in the development space, Millennials, are actively seeking opportunities for career growth and professional development, something that is very relevant for when it comes time for them to select their next position.

Source: Gallup.com

The evidence speaks for itself: in order to have the best team, you need to invest in the people. Let’s dive into a few ways you can create an environment for your junior team members to grow within their careers.

Use performance metrics

Performance metrics are some of the most effective and simple tactics to help your team grow and advance as they navigate their careers. However, slapping whatever comes to mind onto a piece of paper is hardly a recipe for success; the performance metrics you use should be carefully considered to be actionable for your team. After all, this will inform how many of your junior members think about their day-to-day workload, so reducing frustration here is a must. Below are some general guidelines to help you brainstorm metrics for your team:

  • Your metrics should be clear and concise: Don’t leave any room for doubt in what is and isn’t expected from your team.
  • Your metrics should be based on measurable, quantitative metrics: make sure your team knows exactly where they stand in relation to their goals.
  • They should provide a clear map for progression: one of the signs of a good set of performance metrics is that they show a path to going above and beyond to your junior colleagues.

Practice giving constructive feedback

A lot of the time, people think feedback means criticizing mistakes. And that’s true, to an extent. However, there’s much more to consider if you want to create the most conducive environment for growth. The best way to give feedback is to offer suggestions for improvement in addition to pointing out the problem you noticed. This sort of criticism should be focused on a specific issue and based on concrete observations you’ve noticed. Making sweeping generalizations about your junior team members can be incredibly damaging to them and the overall team you’re trying to build.

Foster an ownership mentality

The best way to cultivate the individuals on your team is to put them on the path to become leaders in their own right. This goes far beyond hiring a few leadership coaches to come talk about the best mentality; what’s more important is ensuring that your junior developers feel as though they’re independent actors who can make genuine contributions to the team. This can start with a simple resolution to encourage more participation during meetings, but ultimately you need to give your team the authority to make decisions about their work. Not only will this increase the speed at which they can complete tasks, but it will also force them to grow in ways that might be otherwise denied to them if they have to constantly touch base with their managers for each and every decision.

This goes hand and hand with education on how best to make well-informed and reasonable decisions. Of course, there may be a few mistakes at first, but these learning experiences will only help to supercharge these skills and will pay massive dividends in the long term.

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Encourage stretch projects

One of the beauties of having an agile team that can function independently at a high level is that they will often find new places to improve existing processes or even come up with new initiatives altogether. Furthermore, this can be an excellent way to help develop specific skills amongst members of your team. As someone in a management position, you are uniquely positioned to identify areas of growth amongst your team and encourage them to seek opportunities to acquire skills on their own terms.

Making use of a good piece of project management software can not only help you keep tabs on these new projects, but assist your junior developers in organizing their thoughts and ideas as they tackle new areas of difficulty for the team.

On the shoulders of giants

Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the current team leads to pass on the skills they have to their junior team members. Preparing a new hire for their entire career instead of just for that specific role can pay surprising dividends when it comes to performance, retention, and moral. It’s only through a responsible diffusion of knowledge that the truly agile and effective young developers that comprise the best teams in the world can be created.

Author
Piper Thomson
Piper Thomson works with G2 as a Content Marketing Associate. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, they graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Sociology. Their interests include podcasts, rock climbing, and understanding how people form systems of knowledge in the digital age.

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