Tips to Growing a Developer Team Effectively

At some point a successful engineering team will be faced with growth. Growth is a critical path that will bring stress and complications to a team. Growth is a factor for risk and making mistakes can corrupt the culture and bring a project to a halt. The following are a few tips to help avoid issues.

Teams will be made or broken by communication. If communication fails, and trust is abandonded, the team would have been better off if they hired no one.


Having anyone is sometimes better than having no one. But having the right person is better than having the “right now” person.

  1. Have a process.
  2. Have at least 4 team members interview. The employee in doing the hiring should hear the opinions of the interviewers before making the choice on there own.
  3. Document every step of the process so that it can be improved or repeated by anyone.
  4. Ask newly hired employees to improve the process.
  5. Create challenges that represent real work that hirees would be doing. Have the interviewee describe how they would accomplish the proposed work, and have the employees interviewing ask questions about the solutions provided.

Have a process to hiring; no really, create one today. It’s incredibly time consuming and hard to grow a team without having something of a flow of what to do when bringing in possible employees. From phone calls, to emails, and 1-1s, details get lost. Have a process to document all of these steps. Teams will only benefit by asking many team members do an interview. Time is the only limitation on how many you want to partake in the interviewing process. 3-5 hours of interiew time is typical. Anything less and the risk of hiring the wrong employee is too high. Teams should consider to have at least 2 intewviewers in the room at any time. In fact, it’s a learning opportunity for everyone in the room everytime it’s done. As a team, always stop after interviews are done and retrospect. Let opinions come out and the team decicion should become obvious. As a boss, however, take care in making a decision that isn’t necessarily what the team thinks they want, but focus on what is needed. The most important question to answer is not ‘Can this person do the job’, it’s ‘Can this person communicate within this team effectively’. It’s critical to understand that the smartest person interview is not always who should be considered. Teams work best when there is trust among the team members, so a team members’ attitude is everything. Teams need to hire those they will work best with and that can do the job, in that order. Teams will be made or broken by communication. If communication fails, and trust is abandonded, the team would have been better off if they hired no one.


The simplest method taken is to place the process squarely within the mind of the new hire.

  1. Don’t rely on other parts of the company to provide new team members direction; the team can provide that.
  2. Teams need to have a ‘Structure’ diagram that outlines visually who has what responsibility.
  3. Create a shadowing schedule where the a team member will peer work with other members related to what they will be doing. To this for at least the first 3 days for a new hire.
  4. Provide a handbook, or some documentation of how work is done. Be clear on the critical decision making choices the team has made.
  5. Managers should provide a ‘Readme’ (also here) to new employees.
  6. Managers need to have a 1-1 at the end of each day with the employee for the first week. Improving the process each day.
  7. Create as many opportunities for success at the beginning of an employee’s employment and they will want to stay for years.
  8. Make sure all paperwork that the employee needs to have done, is done ASAP or else it will become work that interrupts their success.
  9. Get all 401k, health and miscellaneous employment benefits completely understood by the employee day 1, especially if there is no HR.


Teams work best when there is trust.

  1. Teams should have ‘lightning’ talks on how work is accomplished. This is a great way to share and communicate.
  2. Have ‘happy hour’ time with new hires to break the mold.
  3. Give the team real training time, like ‘agile’ training or conferences or host you own.
  4. Team leads or managers need to be having 1-1s with the employees, ideally when needed but no less than every couple weeks.
  5. Give new hires a set of bookmarks for all the processes they are expected to work with. This is key to getting real work done.

If these tips helped you or you have more to add, find me @geedew and let me know.