Technical and non-technical personnel are often at odds with each other. There is a simple explanation: In most larger companies, these individuals don’t share the same goals. Smaller companies have an easier time aligning employees who all want to grow the company and help their customers. As companies achieve that growth, however, responsibilities necessarily become divided into departments, and efforts tend to become siloed.
This can often lead to conflict between departments. While conflict is inevitable even in strong, well-managed companies (and it can even be beneficial at times), disagreements that are rooted in miscommunication and distrust are the most problematic.
Shared management can help mitigate the side effects of this type of growth, but it isn’t a perfect solution. Managers without a technical background will often defer to the experts in a well-meaning way, as technical employees can often make decisions with a degree of certainty. However, those with a technical background also tend to underestimate the amount of expertise necessary to execute the more intangible strategies, such as a marketing plan.
When a group of employees feels less valued, it’s harder for teams to work together for the benefit of the organisation as a whole. In order to avoid having your employees pitted against one another, it’s important to cultivate a workplace that allows workers from various departments to find common ground. Ensure they are communicating with one another regarding what skills they possess and which they are hoping to gain. Recognise and reward all contributions in any department, whether employees are being good mentors, independent workers, or team leaders.
Also, instead of referring to employees as “technical” or “non-technical,” try to better articulate what their roles are so you don’t unknowingly create a divisive environment. To foster a more cooperative mentality, remember these four tips:
1. Avoid unnecessary division
Dividing a company into the business side and the technical side is unnecessary. There’s only one side, and everyone is on it together. A shared vision and shared goals will equal shared success, so align targets and goals for all employees accordingly.
Dividing departments into technical and non-technical undermines this effort, and it creates the impression that employees either have a technical skill or don’t have a skill at all. This “us vs. them” mentality can breed resentment, making one side feel less important and less valued than the other when, in fact, both sides are crucial to the organisation’s success.
If you must label departments, you could at least group employees into engineering, marketing, human resources, sales, and other divisions rather than technical vs. non-technical. Separate departments are necessary as your company grows, but unnecessary labels can be divisive and harmful.
2. Work together across departments.
Technology and marketing leaders should work together, and it’s helpful if they have a personal connection. According to research by Gartner, CMOs will spend about a quarter of their budget on technology, which amounts to about 3.24 per cent of overall company revenue, while CIOs come in only slightly more at 3.4 per cent. In other words, while it’s often assumed that the technical experts are spending the most on technology, the “non-technical” departments are utilizing it almost as much.
Rather than divide these groups, it’s more beneficial for them to collaborate. Making sure these departments are working together will help bring in the highest possible ROI from all tech spending.
Relationships between company executives should also be built on mutual respect and the knowledge that leaders need each other to run the most effective company possible. As CMOs increasingly rely on the data provided by CIOs — and as CIOs must communicate with CMOs to determine future investments — the lines of responsibility will begin to blur. This is a good thing because it helps each leader run his or her department more effectively.
3. Embrace employee differences.
Recognise each individual’s contribution to the group effort and honour it. Diversity is important in any population, and in business, it’s important to have a variance in education and skill set. At the same time, however, you don’t want to place labels on your employees that can affect their performance, productivity, and morale.
Have your employees share the areas in which they want to grow and improve, no matter the department. You might find that technical groups such as engineers would like to spend more time interacting with customers, for instance. Experience outside of coding will prove to be valuable for them and their careers, and it will help them better understand the skill and expertise that’s involved in “non-technical” roles.
Similarly, allowing marketers and salespeople to receive extra training from engineers will give them a better idea of how a product works, which will, in turn, help them explain this functionality to the customer. These individuals will excel at showing how your product can eliminate customer pain points, and they’ll probably win more sales as a result.
4. Provide proper credit.
Every sales deal is the sum of the individual pieces that went into it. Rather than only congratulating marketing and sales employees for closing a deal, give credit to the engineers and developers who created the product. At the same time, though, recognise that without “non-technical” employees, even the most well-designed products would be sitting on proverbial shelves collecting dust.
In the future, every company will be a tech company, and every employee will be a salesperson. With that mindset, the difference is just a skill set, and your company will have an advantage over the competition. Make sure you’re spreading out credit where it is due instead of giving an undue portion to the one person who placed the last piece of a 1,000-piece puzzle.
When you bridge the divide between “technical” and “non-technical” employees, great things can happen. Your engineers and developers gain a better sense of how their work impacts the overall business strategy, your sales and marketing teams learn more about how the technology can solve customer pain points, and everyone is more productive because they’re working together toward the common goal of growing the company.
Svenja de Vos is the chief technology officer of LeaseWeb Global
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