The secrets to keeping engineers happy

As we continue to adjust to a hybrid work model, leaders need to keep three things in mind.

Two people working in a booth

The hybrid work environment isn’t without its own set of challenges.

Photo: LinkedIn Sales Solutions/Unsplash

Sabry Tozin is LinkedIn’s vice president of Productivity Engineering and Jared Green serves as vice president of Engineering and head of Developer Productivity and Happiness at LinkedIn.

We’ve seen the world of work be completely reinvented in the past two years. While this change happened quickly and many organizations were unprepared, there have been plenty of positive outcomes from the shift to the way we think about work. Added flexibility, more transparency from leaders and the ability to connect with colleagues in deeper ways — thanks to shared triumphs and obstacles — have created a more intentional way of working.

Of course, the hybrid work environment isn’t without its own set of challenges. When evaluating tools and processes, it’s not enough for leaders to measure if it’s working well: They also need to take into account if employees are happy with the solution. According to an October 2021 survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn, 59% of working Americans say that feeling happy and fulfilled in their role drives them to produce their best results. To create a positive hybrid experience and understand what works best for our individual organizations, it’s crucial that we keep a few things in mind.

Measuring employee happiness will be critical

At LinkedIn, we saw that our developers were, and still are, actually more productive during the pandemic when compared to metrics from prior years. However, productivity isn’t the end-all, be-all of evaluating employee performance: It’s equally important to consider employee satisfaction and welfare. In fact, we viewed increased productivity as a concern that made us realize we needed to look more closely at the well-being of our engineers.

Measuring employee happiness in a remote or hybrid environment can be challenging. Typically, leaders would have been able to evaluate this in their daily workplace setting, but in a world of hybrid work, that level of interaction is removed. Now, organizations must arm leaders with the proper tools and coaching, which allow them to look beyond productivity and gauge employee happiness. As we think about employee happiness, some of the questions we’ve been considering recently are: How can we keep a pulse on developer satisfaction without falling victim to survey overload? And how do we ensure that we’re hearing from people having middle-of-the-road experiences, and don’t limit our samples to those who are either miserable or completely satisfied?

Measuring employee happiness goes beyond simply asking a direct report how they’re doing, and involves a host of other factors. However, if you’re just starting down this path, having that conversation is a great place to begin!

To attract and retain talent, organizations need to provide access to the best tools

All industries are experiencing the effects of The Great Reshuffle, a time where many are rethinking not only how they work, but why they work. In this job market, candidates hold a lot of power and have freedom of choice — meaning that if your organization doesn’t have the tooling they need for a seamless experience, they can easily look elsewhere. The engineering and developer community loves its tooling, and being able to use the best equipment and software is directly tied to its happiness.

To further echo our first point, it’s important to evaluate your employees’ overall satisfaction with their tools, not just how productive they are with them. To attract and retain talented people — especially during The Great Reshuffle — organizations must ensure employees have the tools necessary to succeed, meet their goals and create a seamless hybrid work experience.

Hybrid isn’t one-size-fits-all

In the past two years, leaders have gotten plenty of practice admitting when they are unsure of something or simply in uncharted territory. With hybrid work, there isn’t a formula or a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on your industry, size, location and many other factors, the hybrid approach that works for you likely won’t work for everyone else. Leaders often want to have all of the answers and know the best plan of action, but in this case, many of us are operating in a new paradigm. As organizations continue to figure out what works best for them, it’s important that they don’t try to replicate what has worked for others — the copy-and-paste model doesn’t work. Instead, success will require trying various strategies, trusting employees, being open to feedback and iterating constantly.

While we’ve experienced many hurdles over the last several months, we’ve also had the opportunity to reinvent work and what it means to be fulfilled in your career. Now more than ever, work is about more than just getting your tasks done; employees want to be satisfied and able to perform without the added frustration of inadequate tooling, and employers need to think about their workforce’s happiness, not just its productivity. To succeed in a hybrid world, leaders need to measure employee satisfaction and, more importantly, be willing to take action with a tailored approach where needed at the company, team and individual levels. It’s our firm belief that a happy and empowered workforce will ultimately drive a company to greater heights of success, and is well worth the investment in resources.

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