Refreshing the Composition of Technical Teams Through Peer Leadership

Top view happy women and satisfied male talking while having job with gadgets in office. Friendly start-up team concept

Written by Michał Szydłowski, Head of Service Delivery at STX Next


Typically, the framework of technical teams has always been rigid and well-defined, with the bulk of responsibility landing at the top. However, with employee burnout and high staff turnover causing headaches for tech companies, it could be time for a structural re-think to address these issues.

An unbalanced leadership team often has employees heading for the exit. In fact, more than two in five employees have quit a job due to poor treatment from a manager. These statistics support the case for spreading managerial duties more widely across a business, as a way of boosting engagement and evenly distributing power so that it cannot be abused.

Peer leadership is an effective tool for building a more harmonious and unified workforce. This involves dividing leadership duties equally between team members, so that each person is responsible for their own unique element of a project. Adopting this strategy empowers employees to take charge of their designated sections, and they are likely to take a more careful and committed approach to their work as a result.



Reinventing the hiring process

Rather than a manager controlling the recruitment process from start to finish, some businesses are embracing peer leadership by letting employees sit in on interviews, even allowing them to make the final decision on whether the candidate gets the job.

72% of jobseekers say they have started a new position and felt a sense of surprise that the role or company was very different from what they were led to believe. Having prospective team members present during an interview will make the whole process more authentic, giving the candidate a clear picture of the environment they are entering, and ensuring the hirer is not making any false promises.

Anders Kring, Head of Technology and Banking Operations at Lunar, had this to say about including peer leadership in recruitment plans: “If the interviewee is successful with their application, they will be greeted with friendly faces outside of managerial positions when they begin their role, easing the pressure of the first few weeks. This will help them settle in more quickly, meaning there will be less time to wait until they are delivering positive results for the business.

“Adopting this strategy is likely to improve the balance of teams within an organisation, as incumbent staff will have a good idea of whether the newly hired employee will work well with the rest of the team. Such insights are extremely valuable when assessing if a candidate is a good fit for the company.

“Involving lower-level staff in the hiring process is a good starting point for integrating peer leadership into company culture, and a strong basis for spreading this philosophy to other areas of a business.”



Empowering employees to succeed

The essence of peer leadership imbues every employee with a heightened sense of responsibility, inspiring them to give their all to help the business succeed.

This begins with distributing tasks evenly, so that all staff are charged with overseeing at least one element of a project. Doing so instils a feeling of accountability throughout the workforce, motivating employees to work hard to help the team meet its objectives.

Kring said: “By trusting employees with managerial responsibilities at an early stage, businesses are equipping entry-level staff with the skills required to rise through the ranks further down the line. This is an investment in the organisation’s long-term future, shoring up the pipeline of decision-makers for years to come.”



Sharing the load of responsibility

Recent research has revealed that two in five tech workers are at a high risk of burnout, due to long hours, demanding workloads and a poor work-life balance. A peer leadership strategy can play a pivotal role in addressing this issue, encouraging employees to try and ease pressures experienced by co-workers.

Kring: “When granted managerial authority, an employee’s duty of care for colleagues increases, meaning all team members are more likely to look out for signs that their peers are struggling. This creates a healthy workplace environment, where staff members are more in tune with each other’s emotions, and can lighten their peers’ workloads if they see that they are struggling.

“Furthermore, if leadership responsibilities are shared, one person isn’t burdened with running an entire team, alleviating some of the strain placed on authority figures. Employees will no longer have to worry about getting on the wrong side of tetchy managers, while senior leaders will have headaches soothed by staff below them who can take some of the weight of responsibility.”

A peer leadership model can also lead to increased employee retention. If colleagues feel that the work they are doing is important and adds real value to the organisation, they will derive more enjoyment from their role. This will boost loyalty, increasing the chances staff will stay in their position in the long term.



Building a cohesive workplace

Building a supportive and uplifting workplace culture relies on staff going above and beyond to ensure their peers are coping with demands and are not overworked. Peer leadership is a valuable tool for instilling this duty of care across an organisation, as sharing responsibility encourages employees to take ownership of tasks and stand up for their colleagues.

Ultimately, a well-delivered peer leadership model will reduce the strain on senior managers, and invigorate more junior employees with a heightened sense of purpose.

Michał Szydłowski