Commit and WFHomie Team
Commit and WFHomie Teams

Are They Happy? Measuring and Improving Developers’ Experience in Remote Teams – Part 2

August 31, 2021 in Technical Founders

The US resignation rate hit an all-time high of 4M in April 2021. In August, job openings peaked at 10M positions, the cherry on top of hiring challenges. Unfortunately for tech startups, the Great Resignation isn’t evenly distributed across all sectors. 

Back in 2019, the shortage of highly skilled tech workers caused “extreme concern” for 79% of CEOs — and it’s only gotten worse. It’s now essential for startup leaders to invest in their remote developers’ experience not only to retain them, but to benefit from a higher quality of work, psychological safety, and engagement. 

But you can’t fix what you don’t measure. In this two-part series, we break down the 7 factors that have the highest influence on remote developers’ experience and satisfaction, and highlight actionable steps team managers can take to measure and improve each of them.

Missed part one? Check it out here.

  1. Inclusivity​​ & Belonging 

Employees, especially those in minority demographics, often feel excluded at work. That’s despite the fact that belonging is a fundamental human need linked to a 56% increase in job performance. Improving inclusivity is an opportunity for startup leaders to make a difference for their teams — in more ways than one. 

How to measure

Consider running an anonymous sentiment survey, with tools like Ariglad and TINYpulse. The key is to mix up the questions to keep people from checking out, present the results and your action plan back to your team, and then actually follow through. 

You may also be able to glean insights from interpersonal interactions. Does someone show up to social events? Do they seem at ease during conversations? Note, however, that people have different approaches towards socializing at work, and someone more reserved might still feel a strong sense of belonging.

How to improve

The biggest and best trick is to care. Show vulnerability at the leadership level, and that you’re accountable against the feedback your team is sharing. 

Create opportunities for team members to connect outside their regular duties. Procurify pairs every new developer with an onboarding buddy from a different functional area — the expectation is to form collegial relationships (and sometimes friendships!) rather than talk about work.

You may also want to change the language you use internally for inclusivity. Consider renaming your ‘master’ branch in GitHub, asking employees to include their pronouns in slack, and teaching your teams to use emojis in inclusive ways.

  1. Alignment to Purpose

McKinsey was on to something when they released  “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave” in April 2021. COVID-19 forced people to reconsider what their priorities are, but 70% of employees feel their purpose is largely defined by their work. If your startup doesn’t align with your developers’ values, they’ll look towards other companies that do.

How to measure

Sherpa specifically measures meaning at work in their 1-on-1s. Developers are asked: ‘How much do you feel your work makes a difference for the team / company / world?’

How to improve

Document your organization’s values and purpose as clearly as possible. Ensure this information is easily accessible for your developers at all times, and make a point of embodying your values on a daily basis.

Invest in your team’s personal growth — whether it be physical, emotional, or intellectual health. WFHomie, for example, provides employees with a Growth Pass: a subscription to fireside chats and wellbeing workshops that promote personal development. By showing your team that you care about their self-actualization, you can align your business with their goals.

  1. Work-life Balance

When it comes to work-life balance, remote work is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, greater flexibility in work location and schedules has meant employees can shift their day-to-day activities to meet their personal needs. This helps 80% of remote workers feel like they can take better care of their mental health. On the other hand, working from home alone can quickly lead to overwork. So, how can you measure and improve your developers’ ability to set boundaries? 

How to measure

While there are tools that let you track people’s hours, they have a high potential for misuse, so most developers are likely to mistrust your motivations for adopting them. 

Explicitly asking about work-life balance in 1-on-1s and anonymous pulse surveys is the best way to assess how people feel about their workload. Tools like Kona are focused on giving managers insight into team mental health and burnout before it’s too late.

Perceptive leaders can also pick up on conversational cues. Do team members seem comfortable talking about their lives outside of work? Are vacations respected?

How to improve

Make space for people’s lives and embrace the flexibility that working remotely offers. Fellow asks all new employees early on if existing meetings conflict with personal commitments (e.g. childcare pickup/dropoff).

Default-visible calendars are a lightweight way for managers to check that all engineers have enough time for deep work and make sure senior engineers aren’t getting pulled into too many recruiting meetings. An occasional scan can also confirm that remote teams aren’t scheduling meetings at inconvenient hours for specific time zones. 

Otherwise, team or company-wide no-meeting days have been successful for Asana and Shopify. If you can’t make space for such a day, consider whether all meetings need to include video to prevent Zoom fatigue.

When planning sprints, scope out the expected time a ticket should take. Crucially, debrief on whether those assumptions were correct, and use those data points to set future time expectations.

Check out WFHomie, which is a platform that helps spice up regular virtual meetings with fun activities!

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