The tech executive is a senior management leader responsible for driving the company's technical vision and direction and ensuring the engineering team's success.
But there's another thing they're responsible for, which may be as equally important as driving the technical vision or ensuring the delivery of high-quality products. It's checking whether the engineering department and everyone in it are happy at their job. This includes the engineering managers, directors, software developers, or anyone else that might be part of the department, depending on the company's size and hierarchy.
Happiness has a major impact on employee satisfaction, productivity, innovation, and the bottom line. A happy and engaged workforce is the top advantage in today's economy. Decades of research have shown that happiness leads to numerous business and educational benefits, including a 37% increase in sales, a 31% boost in productivity, and a 19% improvement in task accuracy.
By focusing on the engineering department's happiness levels, technology executives can help create a more supportive and fulfilling work environment that benefits both the employees and the company.
If you're a tech executive who wants to avoid managing unhappy employees, this post is for you. We'll look at some of the best ways how you can measure and improve the happiness of the engineering department, regardless of its size.
Table of contents
- Understanding Engineering Team Happiness
- Measuring Engineering Department Happiness
- Improving Engineering Department Happiness
Understanding Engineering Team Happiness
Happiness is an emotion. As with all emotions, it's a complex feeling that depends on a range of factors. When it comes to workplace happiness, how happy your employees are will depend on things like workload and stress, work-life balance, recognition and rewards, and career growth opportunities, among other things.
Let's briefly mention some of the key factors that influence the happiness of your engineering department:
- Workload and stress: Excessive workload and high levels of stress can lead to burnout and unhappiness among employees.
- Career growth opportunities: Employees want to feel they are growing and developing professionally and that their contributions are valued.
- Work-life balance: A healthy work-life balance is important for employees, and they value flexibility and support in achieving that balance.
- Communication and transparency: Employees appreciate open, honest, and transparent communication from their tech leaders and the company, and they want to feel that their opinions and feedback are valued.
- Recognition and rewards: Employees want to feel that their hard work is acknowledged and appreciated and that they are fairly compensated for their contributions.
- Management support: Employees want to feel that their managers are supportive and that they have the resources and guidance needed to succeed.
- Company culture: The company culture and values have a significant impact on the engineering department's happiness, and people want to work for a company that aligns with their own values and beliefs.
Measuring Engineering Department Happiness
The first step in managing happy employees is assessing their happiness levels. Measuring the happiness of the engineering department is important for several reasons. For one, it can lead to a better understanding of employee experiences. You'll understand how your employees feel and what factors affect their well-being.
What's more, happy employees are more engaged and productive, and measuring happiness can help identify areas where improvements can be made to support employee well-being and enhance performance. Happy employees are also less likely to leave the company, and measuring happiness can help identify factors contributing to high turnover levels.
Not to mention how employee happiness can lead to a positive company reputation. Companies prioritizing employee well-being and happiness are more likely to be seen as desirable places to work, which enhances the company's reputation and attracts top talent.
With that out of the way, let's examine some of the best ways to measure team happiness:
Employee satisfaction surveys can be a great way to gather feedback and opinions from employees on various aspects of the work environment, including job satisfaction, company culture, and management practices. They're a valuable tool for measuring the happiness of an engineering department, as they can provide insights into what factors are affecting employee well-being and what improvements can be made to enhance the work environment.
To conduct employee surveys on a company-wide level, tech executives can follow these steps:
- Define the survey objectives: Clearly define what you want to learn from the survey, such as employee satisfaction levels, challenges faced by employees, and areas for improvement.
- Develop the survey questions: Ensure that the questions are well-written and unbiased and that they are relevant to the survey objectives. Consider using a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions.
- Select the survey participants: Decide who will participate in the survey, whether it is all employees or a specific group (e.g., engineering managers).
- Distribute the survey: Use an online survey tool, email, or other communication channels to distribute the survey to participants.
- Analyze the survey results: Use statistical tools and techniques to analyze the survey results and identify trends and patterns.
- Communicate the results: Share the survey results with employees, including both positive and negative findings, and discuss any action items or plans for improvement.
The good thing about surveys is they're easy to set up and send around. They also work great for larger organizations. However, there are also some downsides, including low employee engagement. Another downside is that employees are busy people, and they tend to fill out these surveys in a hurry, which means your survey may not be a relevant indicator of how happy your workforce is.
A great alternative to surveys is one-on-one checks ins, which we'll discuss in the next section below.
Team check-ins are another way for tech executives to measure the happiness of the engineering department. These regular meetings between management and employees provide an opportunity for open and direct communication, and they can be an effective tool for gathering feedback and gauging employee satisfaction.
For example, consider scheduling a check-in with members of the engineering department. It's up to you whether you'll be chatting with only those employees with a management role in the company or with everyone from the department. This will depend on the number of people you're managing and whether there's an engineering manager at the company who can take over these check-ins in your stead.
Make sure you identify the topics you want to discuss during the check-in, such as work challenges, project progress, or improvement opportunities before the meeting begins.
Remember to explain beforehand that the meeting won't be a performance conversation but a check-in so that you understand how they are doing and what you can do to best support them.
Here's an example of what you could say:
I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for having you on our team. As we embark on a new year/quarter, I would like to set aside time to check in and ensure that you are having a positive work experience. Our meeting will not have a specific agenda, but I would like you to reflect on a few questions before we chat:
- How are you feeling about work in general?
- What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
- What aspect of your job do you find least enjoyable?
- Are you finding a good balance between work and home life?
- What has been the biggest challenge this year/quarter, and is there anything I can do to help?
- What can I do differently to better support you and the team?
- Is there anything you would like feedback on?
- Do you feel like you are learning and growing here? If not, how can I improve your experience?
It's important that you take the feedback seriously and respond to employee concerns in a timely manner. We'll discuss some strategies for improving employee happiness in the following chapter.
Employee Engagement Metrics
Employee engagement metrics are a set of quantitative measures that provide insights into how employees feel about their work, their team, and the company. Tracking these metrics can help tech executives like yourself understand the level of employee engagement and how it's affecting the happiness of the engineering department.
Here are some common employee engagement metrics that can be tracked:
- Turnover rate: The percentage of employees who leave the company within a specified period of time. High turnover rates can indicate low employee satisfaction and engagement.
- Absence rate: The number of days employees take off from work. High absence rates can indicate low job satisfaction, burnout, or poor health.
- Employee satisfaction survey results: The results of employee satisfaction surveys, including overall satisfaction levels and specific areas of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): A measure of customer loyalty and advocacy, NPS can be used to gauge employee satisfaction and engagement by asking employees how likely they are to recommend the company as a place to work.
- Productivity metrics: Measures of employee productivity, such as the number of tasks completed or the time taken to complete a task. Low productivity levels can indicate low engagement or burnout.
By tracking these metrics, you can better understand the factors affecting engineering department happiness and use the information to make improvements that enhance the work environment. Additionally, tracking these metrics over time can provide insights into trends and patterns, allowing you to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts to improve employee engagement and happiness.
Some leaders skip surveys and check-ins and opt to measure employee happiness by observing. What does this mean? It means looking at things such as connections between team members. Do they socialize after work? Is there a positive working atmosphere among the team(s)? Another thing to observe is their work attitude. How do they feel when a new project is announced? How do they react to new company initiatives? Observing can sometimes help you arrive at better conclusions than surveys.
Improving Engineering Department Happiness
Now that you've learned some of the best methods for measuring the happiness of the engineering department, it's time to look at some strategies for making your company a happier place for everyone.
We've narrowed it down to six strategies, including:
Managing Workload and Stress
Managing workload efficiently and ensuring that every team member is well-rested are important factors in improving the happiness of the engineering department. Overworking employees can lead to burnout, decreased job satisfaction, and decreased productivity.
One survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup identified the top 5 reasons for burnout. They include:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Unmanageable workload
- Lack of role clarity
- Lack of communication and support from their manager
- Unreasonable time pressure
In short, this means that the root causes of burnout don't lie with the individual but with leadership. The good news is there are some steps tech executives can take to manage workload efficiently and prevent overwork. Here are some of them:
- Set realistic expectations: Ensure that workloads are assigned in a way that is realistic and achievable, taking into account the time, resources, and skills of each team member.
- Provide support: Ensure that team members have access to the resources and support they need to complete their work, including training, tools, and technology.
- Encourage delegation: Encourage team members to delegate tasks where possible, spreading the workload more evenly across the team.
- Regularly review workloads: Regularly review the workloads of each team member to ensure that they are well-rested and that they have the resources they need to complete their tasks.
Let's imagine you're developing a new product and will be requiring extra work hours from your core team. Instead of overworking your existing full-time developers, you may temporarily hire independent contractors who will work on the development of the new product. You can hire such talent on talent networks like Adeva, where every tech talent has been triple-vetted for both technical and communication skills. Not only will these developers be vetted for talent, but the time to hire is also less than two weeks. Even better, you can always scale up or down as needed.
Offering Flexible Work Arrangements
Offering flexible work arrangements is one way how tech executives can improve the happiness of the engineering department. A study conducted by McKinsey found that the vast majority (87%) of employees who were given the option to work remotely took advantage of it and worked from home an average of three days per week.
People seem to like flexible work arrangements for several reasons. Flexible work arrangements allow employees to balance their work and personal lives more effectively, reducing stress and increasing overall well-being. It can reduce the amount of time employees spend commuting, freeing up time for other activities.
There are a few flexible work models that can help to improve employee productivity. Simply choose the one that would be feasible for your company.
- Compressed work-week: A compressed work-week model involves working a standard 40-hour week but in fewer days. This means that employees work longer hours on certain days and get an extra day off.
- Remote work: Remote work is a type of flexible work arrangement where employees work outside of a traditional office setting, typically from home or another location of their choice, using technology such as laptops, smartphones, and video conferencing tools to communicate and collaborate with coworkers and perform their job duties. The best thing about remote work is that you won't need large office spaces, which can greatly reduce your company spending. The money you save can be invested into offering higher salaries, for example.
- Flexitime: Flexitime is a flexible work arrangement that allows employees to adjust their work schedules within certain parameters set by their employer. This model allows employees to start and end their workday at different times as long as they meet the required number of working hours for the day or week. Flexitime can also include options for working from home or part-time work.
- Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE): ROWE is a flexible work model where employees are evaluated based solely on the results they produce, regardless of when or where the work is done. This means that as long as the work is completed and meets the required standards, employees have the flexibility to choose their own schedules, work locations, and work-life balance.
Implementing Recognition and Reward Programs
Recognition and rewards play a significant role in improving employee happiness and job satisfaction. Studies show that employees who receive recognition have increased self-esteem, confidence, willingness to tackle new tasks, and eagerness for innovation. A well-designed rewards system can guide employee motivation toward desired outcomes.
Here are some ways tech executives can use recognition and rewards to improve the happiness of the engineering department:
- Regular recognition: Regularly recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of team members to increase feelings of value and worth.
- Public recognition: Publicly recognize the achievements of team members in company-wide meetings, to increase visibility and build morale.
- Tailored rewards: Offer rewards that are tailored to the individual interests and preferences of team members to increase personal satisfaction and motivation.
- Monetary rewards: Offer monetary rewards such as bonuses or pay raises to recognize outstanding performance, to increase financial security and motivation.
- Opportunities for growth and development: Offer opportunities for growth and development, such as training programs or advancement opportunities, to increase engagement and motivation.
- Celebrate successes: Celebrate team and company successes, such as project completions or business milestones, to increase team bonding and morale.
Providing Career Growth Opportunities
In 2017, Glassdoor looked at real-world job transitions and was able to identify which factors made workers jump ship and which motivated them to stay and grow in their current company. The study found that one of the major turnover drivers was allowing workers to stagnate in their current roles.
It's very simple. Employees who don't see a clear progression from their current position to a better role in the company look for better opportunities elsewhere.
Luckily, there's an easy solution. Tech executives can fix this issue by providing more career growth opportunities. This can include:
- Providing training and development opportunities: Offer courses, workshops, and conferences to help employees stay up-to-date with industry trends and learn new skills.
- Encouraging professional development: Encourage employees to take on new projects, lead teams, and take on additional responsibilities.
- Offering mentorship programs: Connect employees with mentors who can guide them in their career development and help them set and achieve career goals.
- Promoting from within: Consider promoting employees who have demonstrated their skills and dedication to the company.
- Providing clear career paths: Clearly communicate expectations and career paths to employees so they know what they need to do to progress in their careers.
By providing these opportunities, tech executives can show their employees that they are valued and invested in their professional growth, which can contribute to increased happiness and engagement in the workplace.
Encouraging Open Communication and Transparency
Open communication and transparency are crucial components of thriving workplace cultures, especially during challenging times. When leaders do not clearly explain their reasons for restructuring a department, when managers fail to justify giving more duties, or when employees decline a promotion without giving a reason, the lack of transparency can cause distrust and decreased job satisfaction.
Here are a few things leaders can do to improve open communication and transparency:
- Holding regular team meetings: Hold regular team meetings where employees can share their thoughts, ideas, and feedback in a safe and open environment.
- Encouraging open feedback: Create a culture where employees feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback. This can help improve communication and resolve any issues that may be impacting happiness.
- Providing transparency around company decisions: Keep employees informed about company decisions and how they may impact the engineering department. This can help build trust and understanding.
- Being approachable: Make sure employees feel comfortable reaching out to their managers and leaders with any questions or concerns they may have.
- Encouraging open communication channels: Use technology and other tools to facilitate open communication between employees, teams, and departments.
Gallup's research revealed that employees with strong workplace friendships are seven times more likely to be invested in their work and 50% more content with it. Camaraderie also boosts retention, as employees are less prone to leaving when they work with friends.
Camaraderie goes beyond mere fun and encompasses a shared sense of purpose and the mindset of working together. Employees can form strong bonds during projects due to their common belief in the project's purpose, mutual reliance, and shared experiences as a team.
Tech executives can encourage camaraderie and close relationships within the engineering department by:
- Organizing team-building activities: Encourage the team to bond through fun activities, such as team lunches, outings, or even virtual team-building games.
- Fostering a positive work culture: Encourage open communication, positive feedback, and collaboration within the team. Celebrate successes and support each other through challenges.
- Encouraging team members to connect outside of work: Offer opportunities for team members to get to know each other better, such as after-work events or social outings.
- Encouraging mentorship and coaching: Encourage senior engineers to mentor and coach junior engineers, helping them build close relationships and fostering a sense of community within the team.
To conclude, employee happiness is critical for engagement and performance in the workplace. As a tech executive, measuring and improving the happiness of the engineering department is an important responsibility. The best approach is experimenting with different strategies and seeing what works best for your team. By continually striving to create a positive and supportive work environment, you can help maximize your engineering department's productivity and satisfaction.