Workload management for engineering teams

Dovile Miseviciute ·

Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space. 2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood. 2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.

workload management for engineering

Workload management is an important aspect of all projects. It helps reduce workload and stress, and ensures everything is completed on time. While seeming to be the same for everyone, workload management will require different approaches depending on the team you are managing. So, let’s take a look at what is the workload management for engineering teams.

Managing Engineers

Engineering projects can be characterized as complex due to the various disciplines involved. Whether it is mechanical or civil engineering, projects will require specialists and teams to draft specifications, conduct research, build design, control manufacturing, deliver installation, and in many cases – provide support or take care of recycling.

Thus, managing engineers requires a certain set of skills that allow their best qualities to shine. When looking for advice on how to manage engineers, you will find things such as:

  • Removing distractions
  • Creating a collaborative environment
  • Learning the way the team likes to work
  • Fostering a culture of learning

However, finding information on why it is important to manage the engineer’s workload is quite rare. Let’s see if this convinces you.

Why Should You Manage Engineers Workload?

Usually, engineers are valuable and costly specialists. Often, their paid hours make up the largest share of the total cost of an engineering project. Therefore engineering companies seek to optimize resources – hire as many specialists for each discipline to fill their agenda with valuable work completely. However, often optimizations of resources end up in slower growth, missed deadlines, even burnout, and loss of competitiveness.

Project managers and team managers have to balance resources both long and short term to keep teams productive and make sure the work is done on time. This is workload management. It has lately become another discipline of engineering project management.

Workload Management Overview

As a term, workload management stands for all actions and methods used to ensure that the workload is divided equally amongst all the team members and in a way that allows delivering the project on time.

As such it focuses on two key areas – keeping the team motivated and delivering the results on time. Both of these are quite simple on their own, but become more difficult when mixed with one another and the remaining project constraints. Thus, to ensure both of these conditions are met, project managers use a variety of practices to manage the workload and to find the right balance between the two goals.

Workload Management for Engineering Teams

When talking about workload management for engineering teams, we must first understand that these teams are composed of professional and highly individual people. They are often experts in their own field and as such expect to be respected and have their opinions heard. Simply handing down tasks and expecting everything to be delivered can work, but will not be suitable in the long run.

Instead, there has to be a strong emphasis on collaboration and a sense of purpose in what the team is aiming for. Thus, when talking about workload management for engineering teams we must think about helping the team members in taking on the right tasks and having sufficient time to complete them. It is more about guiding the team instead of scheduling them to do the work.

Workload Management Practices for Engineering Teams

Each engineering team is different in its rhythm and style of work. However, there are several practices that prove to be beneficial in most teams.

1. Define Your Team’s Capacity

To make sure the workload is managed in the best possible way, you should first define your engineering team’s capacity. See how many people you have, what are their work hours and understand how much can be done in a week’s time. This will help you in setting due dates and prioritizing which tasks should be taken on next.

To make sure specific team member schedules are not forgotten, use workload management tools and define how much time each of your colleagues has. You can mark on which days they are available to you, as well as how many hours they have which is especially useful when sharing resources with other project managers. By noting this information down, you can check everyone’s availability making engineering team management that much easier.

teamhood work hours
Work hour availability settings in Teamhood

2. Assign Tasks Based on Priorities

Another important practice to help workload management for engineering teams is assigning the most important or urgent tasks first. This concept will be more familiar for those using Kanban practices but can be applied in teams that use other methods as well. All you need to do is prioritize the tasks on your to-do list. You can do this by assigning numbers (giving the most important task number 1, the next number 2, and so on), categorizing tasks into several priority columns (Priority 1, Priority 2, etc.), or putting them in a list from most to least important.

Once the tasks are prioritized, start assigning them to your team members. The way to go about this is to take on the most important task first and to see which colleague should perform it. As the first task is taken, go on to the next one and continue until all your team member’s workloads are used up. Ideally, you should reprioritize tasks and assign them to the team members on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This way you will be more receptive to change and work on the most important tasks at all times.

As most engineering teams are quite self-sufficient, it is often the team members themselves that pick which tasks to perform. This is perfectly fine, as long as you prioritize the backlog (or the to-do list) and participate in the task assignments to make sure no one is taking on too much work on themselves. If the team is using a Kanban board for task assignments, simply check the workload view after to make sure no one is overstretched.

kanban board teamhood
Kanban board view in Teamhood

3. Integrate Personal Goals

Most engineers are highly motivated people who seek growth and mentorship in their professional lives. Thus, you should create a habit of adding personal growth tasks to the workload. Whether those tasks are project-related or a bit off-topic, make sure your team members have some scheduled time each week for their own personal growth. This will keep them motivated and allow the growth of skills in the team.

It is easy to fill the workload with tasks that have to be done for the project and forget about personal goals or ambitions. But keeping your team members’ priorities in mind will result in a happier and more skilled pool of talent for you.

4. Review and Adjust the Workload

Keep reviewing and checking the workload while the team is working. This is especially important for teams that have high-urgency tasks or schedule their tasks for longer periods of time.

We all know that project plans have a tendency to change. This is due to a variety of reasons often out of our control. Thus, another good workload management practice for engineering teams is to review regularly. This will allow you to spot if any team member is struggling and reassign important or urgent tasks to other team members while there is still a possibility to deliver them on time.

If you are using a project management tool like Teamhood, the task board information is replicated in the workload view. You can switch between views with one click. It makes it easy to track live information and adjust the course of action.

workload management for engineering teams
Workload tracker in Teamhood

5. Consult with your engineering team

Lastly, take advantage of the most important resource you have – the engineering team. Ask them how they like to plan the work and set practices and schedules that suit their pace of work as well as their needs. This way you will be able to build a process that works for both you and them while respecting the work-life balance.

Moreover, the team members will have an opportunity to discuss how they manage the workload personally. Share the best practices, and what works for them, and give tips as well as ideas for the rest of the team. Involving the engineering team will keep them engaged in the workload management process.

Additional resources: Engineering productivity metrics each leader should follow

Engineering workload management software

Workload management for engineering teams is not an easy task, but picking the right tool for it can make a big difference. According to the State of Engineering Project Management Report, 52% of engineering companies already use project management tools, and out of those that don’t, most consider starting in the next 12 months.

With Teamhood you will get a full project management platform that allows you to manage projects on several different scales. As a manager, you can review the big picture with the portfolio view, while your team uses visual task boards to track daily tasks and mark any important changes. Use built-in time tracking features to see if the team meets estimations and bill clients according to the time spent on them. With the customizable dashboard, you can create quick reports that show just what you need, and by having all of the project information in one place, you can eliminate status report meetings.

Check this short video to see how easy it is to manage workloads in Teamhood.

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