Engineers are the heart of every technology company. Without them, it would be impossible to bring new products to market or meet customer demands – they are the core of modern business strategy. However, in today’s tech landscape, there is an estimated shortfall of over 173,000 workers in STEM sectors, and an average of 10 unfilled roles per business in the UK. In addition, nearly half (49%) of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties recruiting workers with the skills they need.
All of this means that workload for engineers is high, and current economic challenges are further compounding the pressure – as teams are now being asked to achieve more with less. As a result, many are experiencing burnout and the rate of engineering attrition is high.
So what are business leaders to do in this challenging environment that has left many engineers burdened with extra responsibilities? To attract and retain talented developers against this challenging backdrop, business leaders must relieve some of this pressure by creating a workplace culture with developer satisfaction at its core. A positive engineering culture will enable business success, and below I explore how leaders can create a culture that increases retention of such scarce talent, and supports business growth.
Satisfied developers perform better
In the current economic climate, developers are facing immense pressure to ship functional code on a daily basis – and 83% report that they have suffered from burnout due to high workloads (47%), inefficient processes (31%) and unclear goals and targets (29%).
There are three key pillars to keeping developers satisfied and motivated. The first is psychological safety. It is important for developers to feel able to take risks without feeling criticism. In highly creative roles, such as software engineering, developers are often asked to create something out of nothing. Ensuring space to experiment with new approaches is crucial.
Second is dependability. If leaders trust their developers to produce high quality work in a timely manner, they are more likely to perform better and take responsibility for their part in driving projects forward. Alongside this, leadership must brief developers with structure and clarity; the goals, roles, and plan for execution must be clearly communicated.
The final pillar for cultural success is ensuring developers understand the meaning of their work and can easily see the impact it has. The work of a software engineer is routine and can involve an exorbitant amount of time spent on small fixes and updates that seem insignificant. Communicating the value that your developers bring to the business is crucial in these instances, creating a strong positive feedback loop for outcomes and team wellbeing. If developers see that difficult work will be valued, they will be more motivated to stay at the organisation.
By keeping your current engineering teams happy and supported, you’ll likely see an uptick in engineer-to-engineer referrals, creating an organic talent pipeline from outside your organisation.
Make success visible
Another key aspect of ensuring healthy engineering teams is transparency. Using a software delivery intelligence platform is a great way for developers to see the impact they are making on the business with their contributions. And developers can’t do their jobs effectively if they don’t have insight into the workflows on their teams or don’t have context into decision-making that impacts them.
Engineering managers can use this data to celebrate developer progress on previously invisible work to demonstrate back the impact they have to the business. This leads to greater autonomy and supports progress towards shared goals – ultimately leading to better business outcomes.
For example, Thomson Reuters needed to uncover opportunities for higher efficiency and get more insights into their engineering teams’ workflow to stay lean and agile. By using a measuring tool, they were able to track metrics and empower teams to define processes that are repeatable, simple, and free of obstruction. With this data-driven approach, engineers were better able to showcase their performance and leaders could set more specific targets, aligned to the needs of their engineers and the business’ goals. As a result, Thomson Reuters saw the average coding days increase from 2.3 to 3 per developer, which equates to 3 weeks per engineer per year.
Remove bottlenecks by using data insights
With new technologies, programming languages and methodologies arising at a rapid pace, the role of the developer is constantly evolving and increasing in complexity. If you’re not careful, the complexity associated with a given project can stop it dead in its tracks.
Engineering leaders must prioritise helping their teams remove roadblocks to success by leaning on data-driven insights. Rather than setting targets for teams that are based on standards with no concrete backing, instead, look at the data associated with engineering teams to get to the heart of what seems like a complex issue to find a solution. Data-driven insights help organisations manage complexity more efficiently.
This will help developers to remove roadblocks that may be slowing their projects down, increasing productivity while delivering value that will make them more satisfied in the long run.
Business leaders spend a lot of time finding ways to drive business growth, and the engineering team can’t be overlooked as part of this. Increasing efficiency through data insights, satisfaction and culture can pay real dividends for the overarching business growth strategy. Engineering leaders have a huge role to play in ensuring their teams are empowered and engaged to achieve success. Without addressing the culture problem, engineers will become disillusioned with their work and attrition will be high.
In the current job landscape, culture is king. Businesses cannot afford to lose talent so it must be the responsibility of engineering leaders to change the status quo.
Greg Ceccarelli is GM of Flow at Pluralsight. Greg has full P&L ownership and all functions inclusive of GTM: Marketing, Product Marketing, Sales, Biz Dev, Success, Support and Docs | EPD: Engineering, Product Management, Design | Research and BizOps.
Prior to this role, Greg led the Data Science organisation at GitHub where he leveraged the company’s unique data stores to drive product and business decisions that affected the platform.
Greg has also held senior level roles at The League, Dropbox, Google and AlixPartners.