How do you get difficult yet uninteresting tasks done?
January 28, 2014 3:10 PM Subscribe
I've noticed there are a lot of tasks at my company that are important and challenging, but not interesting or glamorous. Hiring and retaining personnel to complete such tasks seems to be a very hard problem. I wonder if there's any research or wisdom about how to approach such problems. Help me, hivemind.
posted by Cogito to Work & Money (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What I'm talking about are talks that require enough talent or experience that you can't give them to just anyone, but that are not really interesting or rewarding enough to capture the imagination of the people with the talent and/or experience enough to complete them. So, you either get people who aren't sufficiently skilled doing poor work or brief stints of work by competent people. Either way, the results are poor.
Some examples should make the kind of situations I'm referring to clearer. I work in software development and here are three examples of these kinds of problems:
1. The build system
Our product is very complex and over time the build system has become very convoluted and brittle. As a result, this negatively impacts everyone's productivity, but it's not totally broken, so it never becomes a #1 priority to finally fix. It's hard to work on because it requires broad understanding of the unique ways in which all different parts of the product need to be built, but a lot of the work is tedious and ultimately unrewarding because people only notice the build system when it's working poorly.
2. User interface
Our product has various compelling technologies that allow us to succeed in the market place, but our user interface is fairly minimal and uninteresting. That said, there are enough things to configure that a well designed and implemented UI is important to making the product work well. Because our UI itself isn't very interesting, it's hard to attract and retain good UI designers and developers.
Hiring in software development is currently very competitive and we have many slots to fill. Ideally a good recruiter will help you find good candidates, but how do you find a good recruiter? It's actually a very hard job and theoretically you could pay a good recruiter more to keep them, but who recruits the recruiters?
The obvious answer to all these kinds of questions is to increase compensation. But in a job market where people generally make a pretty decent salary, people tend to place importance on enjoying the work they're doing and so will simply go elsewhere if forced to do such unrewarding tasks. Are there other strategies for approaching such problems? Is there even a common name for this kind of situation?