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Does Your Engineering Culture Need A Tune-Up?

Ashley Swanson

Influenced by the struggle for talent and a record-high resignation rate, businesses face more difficulty than ever when hiring in today’s job market. A company’s engineering culture becomes one of the main determining factors for new hires when searching for jobs. 

As we’ve talked about, a healthy engineering culture is built on pillars of transparency, team development, and supportive workflows. By regularly checking-in and fine-tuning aspects that intersect with these pillars, organizations can shift an engineering culture to be more aligned with their goals. 

We have a few ideas about how you can tune-up your engineering culture to create a holistic environment that will drive long-term success. 

Areas to Tune-Up:

  • For transparent goals – set up clear professional expectations
  • For unblocked workflows – check for inclusive leadership
  • For individual development – foster a learning environment
  • For team development – establish onboarding buddies

Professional Expectations

Overlooking the need to define professional expectations can lead to bad assumptions, since not everyone will just naturally understand the best practices at work. However, being direct and open about professional expectations can greatly contribute to the goal of inclusive transparency. 

While there are many aspects that intersect with professional expectations, a good example can be found in how engineering teams approach documentation.

The quality and format of a team’s documentation can provide insight to the professional expectations of an engineer. Documentation is not about writing for engineers of the present, documentation is about supporting the future. 

Fine-tune your layout style for different documentation – how a README should look in a repository versus how to write down infrastructure documentation. What tools can enable engineering teams so documentation is naturally part of their work flow? Stressing the importance of documentation helps highlight how to communicate, collaborate, and interact with different coworkers to set others up for success.

Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership greatly influences if an engineering culture can successfully flourish. A single effective manager doesn’t make a culture, but a single bad manager can wreck a team’s cohesion and engagement.

Leadership that embraces equity means that managers transparently address these power structures, and how they apply pressures on individuals in different ways. Pay gaps or power trips take the focus away from an engineer’s actual work. A culture that pushes towards equity in pay, in benefits, in the career ladder, will lessen the pressures an engineer can face. 

One way to affect culture is to fine-tune the purpose of one-on-ones. Managers should use this time to listen and build trust, so employees can share these pressures and stressors outside of work updates. These conversations can also happen with mentors or others on the team.

Developer Learning Path

The engineering learning process is often about failing. Mistakes are an informative part of the developer learning path, leading to new creative thought and problem solving. 

A manager is there to be a counterbalance to failure, pointing to areas engineers can improve, while evaluating the process for snags or obstacles. This helps build the trust and confidence for individual engineers, giving them the better chance to achieve a flow state for their work. 

It is important that engineering teams have clear guardrails that allow for failures, designed in such a way that a bad mistake will not harm an individual engineer’s growth. Help fine-tune the process by better defining the guardrails for your team. 

Mentoring Buddies

Another way to fine-tune your engineering team’s functionality–especially if the plan is to add many new developers to the team–is with onboarding buddies.

Not only will new hires receive better technical guidance by having these mentors, those in the mentoring role can further their own learning and development. Buddies provide the context and details that make an engineering team unique—which can take months or even years for a new hire to obtain on their own. 

Pair programming is another tool to build up mentorship and team engagement, where both developers have the opportunity to learn and grow, whether they are driving or navigating the code. A new hire paired with an experienced developer might be asked to show off their technical knowledge in the code driving seat, while the other engineer gets to practice their teaching skills. 

Pairing programming also has the benefit of reducing siloed knowledge in a few programmers, deepening collaboration and ensuring the longevity of team projects. This ensures a long-term team functionality and sets a more generative outlook on the team as a whole. 

Keep building Culture

It is no longer enough to simply promise there will be a good engineering culture. Engineering leaders need to actively invest in exceeding employee expectations. Bringing in new developers puts more pressure on fault lines in your organization. It’s therefore critical to build and maintain a strong culture so they don’t set off much bigger earthquakes which will drive disengagement and ultimately, the turnover rate. 

A good technical onboarding program will naturally encourage engineering managers to continue to evaluate their engineering culture. Edify designed eddy to keep up with the ever-evolving job market by integrating new engineers into their teams with clarity, expertises, and holistic support. We help hiring managers adjust and tune-up your engineering culture as you onboard, so you keep the engineers you worked so hard to hire.

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