Creating an engineering culture to support developers and supercharge business performance

By Greg Ceccarelli, GM of Flow at Pluralsight.

Engineering talent is one of the most valuable assets that an organisation can have. Engineers’ ability to build new products quickly while meeting customer demand means they are vital to modern business strategy.

However, the current economic downturn means these teams are now being asked to achieve more with less resources – and are burnt out as a result. Engineers remain in high demand in the UK – with just under half (49%) of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties recruiting workers with the skills they need. But, this intense workload is leading to high rates of engineering attrition, which can be a barrier to business success.

To attract and retain talented developers, business leaders must create a workplace culture with developer satisfaction at its heart. In the tech industry, a positive engineering culture is inextricably linked to business success. Below I explore how business can create a culture that supports developers, increases retention and supercharges business performance.

Focus on the developer experience Developers often face immense pressure to ship functional code on a daily basis – and 67% of developers have shipped code with known security vulnerabilities. This is primarily due to time constraints to meet deadlines (24%) or not enough training on how to implement secure coding from their managers (20%).

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 to 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.

Increase transparency 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, Manulife adopted engineering analytics as part of their culture. The company set out to create an engineering culture that was based on trust amongst its engineering teams. The concrete data that it used to analyse engineering processes revealed hidden talent within teams that may not have been found without a data-driven approach. In addition, it allowed for deeper transparency when it came to promotion decisions within engineering teams.

Support your team to manage complexity

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.

The success of a business depends on creating a positive engineering culture across the organisation – and this interdependence will only increase in years to come. By focusing on improving the developer experience through transparency, autonomy, and empowerment, organisations can expect more stability through an engaged and satisfied workforce. The key here is to be committed to using data-driven insights to properly support and uplift your teams.

In the current job landscape, culture is king. Developers will continue to demand a stellar work culture, and it’s the job of engineering leaders to deliver it.

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