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QA testing is a challenging profession; there’s no doubt there. Between constantly learning new technology, how backend systems run, test planning and execution typically on a tight deadline - QA testing is an ever-changing occupation. However, QA testing can also be repetitive and dull. Like any occupation, QA testing is at its most productive when testers are engaged. Work engagement is created by providing new opportunities to learn, rotating repetitive tasks, and providing job growth for all team members regardless of location.

QA testers rarely are effective and productive when they execute the same exact tests or tasks day after day, release after release. When this occurs, QA testing becomes dull and stagnant. Over time, fewer defects are found, and regression tests are not precisely executed. Why? Boredom. Most workers regardless of occupation, fail to do their best work when bored and unchallenged. Now, I am not saying a crazy, and chaotic work life is advantageous - that becomes boring as well. When everything is a crisis, day in and day out - QA testers also stagnate. In these conditions, there’s no time for opportunity or growth.

Build a strong QA team by defining work assignments clearly, and rotating tasks to provide job growth and new opportunities available to all team members.

Define work assignments, but don’t set them in stone

Teams need to be managed in order to stay productive and “healthy.” Part of managing a team is providing known work assignments, so team members understand what’s expected of them. Knowing what your work assignments are, is critical for team members to perform their work with positive momentum. It also ensures there are less frustration and confusion over what to work on, when, where and in what order. Frustration and chaos turn the team’s focus towards each other and away from doing quality, organized work. QA testing teams are no different; they work best with known plans that don’t change every hour, unless absolutely necessary.

Define each team member’s work assignments for a given period of time. For example, a period of time may be a month, or it may be a release. Allow team members to rotate tasks, either on an established schedule or as their skills allow. Provide learning opportunities across the team that allow QA testers to grow their skills. For example, even if the outsourced team is responsible for all regression and automated test execution that doesn’t mean you cannot vary which team members execute which tests. Even switching what test suites are executed provides variety. Consider mixing in some new test case development as well. Perhaps allow them to automate a particular set of application functions, or test a new feature that fits their skill level. Plans change, and assignments will vary. However, by keeping track of work assignments and ensuring they change, provides both learning opportunities and work task variety.

Avoid QA stagnation

I have seen teams in both large and small QA teams suffer from job stagnation. Why? Because many QA managers and software development teams hate to re-train trusted QA’s they have already established a working relationship with. Re-training and re-establishing team bonds take both time and effort. Understandably, many team members resist starting over where they may make mistakes and have to re-learn how to work with new QA team members, managers, and developers.

However, growth and opportunity are better than stagnation, no matter how comfortable it seems. Learning how to work with a new development team, understanding a new part of the application is essential to building and keeping a QA team growing and “alive.” Engaged testers are more effective and provide greater work value to the team, and the company.

It is important that team members want to work, and are engaged in their job duties. Not only does it help their current company, but it builds skills for when employment changes, either the job itself or the company. Being vested in providing growth for your employees is good business. Employees that are provided planned and equitable opportunities for growth, stay while bored employees eventually leave regardless of pay or other incentives. Invest in the QA team’s growth, and over time you will build a strong, engaged team regardless of whether they are internal or outsourced contractors.

QA testers stay engaged when they know their work assignments, perform on a reasonable schedule, and are provided job growth opportunities. If you have a combined QA team, growth opportunities need to be available to all team members regardless of location. Treat the team as a whole, so each member is responsible for testing outcomes equally, and new opportunities are evenly distributed.