While the past few years saw a big drive towards caring for employees, the last months have seen the pendulum swing in the other direction. The tech industry has been harrowed by layoffs and economic uncertainty — and that’s directly impacting existing employees’ morale and well-being, which in turn affects their productivity.
Digital health tools, better mental health treatment and mental health days are great steps, but they do not directly address some of the root causes of software engineer dissatisfaction at work. To counter this productivity-sapping trend, companies need to be thinking more about developer experience (DX). DX looks significantly different from general employee well-being.
Developer experience is more about how software developers feel about the work they do on a daily basis, and that’s directly influenced by the tools and processes they use. That means looking at your team’s experience of the work day itself, the resources they use, and the efficiency of their workflow. The benefit of optimizing those elements is not only happier developers — it translates directly into better business results.
Engineering leaders can do this by more effectively monitoring engineer satisfaction and performance to spot factors that are harming your engineering team’s experience. They should embrace new, holistic metrics and learn how to respond to them. Here are the steps any tech company can take to better understand and improve their developers’ experience.
Get to the root of problems in the workplace
A staggering 3 in 4 software developers globally have experienced burnout in their lifetimes, and engineering leaders everywhere should be asking themselves why. One of the problems is that we’re essentially making engineers’ lives more difficult than they need to be. We have tools to better optimize the workflows and resources software developers use on a daily basis — which would improve their day-to-day experience and help reduce the risk of burnout. However, we may be missing opportunities to make those improvements because we’re not tracking the right metrics on how our engineering teams work, or talking to them enough about their experience.
Another problem is that we haven’t been enabling software developers to engage in more fulfilling tasks. The 2019 State of DevOps report found that software developers often spend just 30 to 40% of their time actually creating features, while most of their time is consumed by delays and admin work. Fixing these time-consuming, low-reward tasks can lead to greater career development and job satisfaction.
Tools that give engineering leaders visibility into this data are widely available and can drastically improve a developer’s experience. If we harness them, each business can start identifying their own unique root causes for developer dissatisfaction at work.
How to improve developer experience: Give it SPACE
There are two things engineering leaders need to look at: the best metrics to really gain insights into DX and how to use that information to improve how software developers feel on the job.
A growing number of companies are turning to DORA metrics to measure software development performance.
These are critical indicators, which essentially measure agility and quality. However, they don’t give the full picture. Indeed, the same team that created DORA’s four key metrics went one step further, and created the more holistic SPACE metrics system. These encompass all of DORA’s metrics, while also looking at the human or emotional aspect of software engineers’ work (or “Satisfaction and well-being”).
Here’s a breakdown of SPACE: