Track the right metrics to improve your developers’ work experience

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While the past few years saw a big drive towards employee care, the last few months the pendulum has swung the other way. The technology industry has been plagued by layoffs and economic uncertainty – and that directly affects the morale and well-being of the existing workforce, which in turn affects their productivity.

Digital health tools, better mental health treatments, and mental health days are big steps, but they don’t directly address some of the root causes of software engineers’ job dissatisfaction. To counter this productivity-sapping trend, companies need to think more about developer experience (DX). DX looks significantly different from overall employee well-being.

Developer experience is more about how software developers feel about the work they do every day, and that is directly influenced by the tools and processes they use. That means looking at your team’s experience of the workday itself, the resources they use and the efficiency of their workflow. The benefit of optimizing those elements is not only that developers are more satisfied, it translates directly into better business results.

Engineering leaders can do this by more effectively monitoring engineer satisfaction and performance to identify factors that are hurting your engineering team’s experience. They must embrace new, holistic measures and learn how to respond to them. Here are the steps any technology company can take to better understand and improve their developers’ experience.

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Get to the heart of workplace issues

A staggering one 3 out of 4 software developers globally have experienced burnout in their lifetimes, and tech leaders around the world should be wondering why. One of the problems is that we’re actually making engineers’ lives harder than they need to be. We have tools to better optimize the workflows and resources that software developers use every day, which would improve their day-to-day experience and help reduce the risk of burnout. However, we may miss opportunities to make those improvements because we don’t keep proper statistics about how our technical teams work, or don’t talk to them enough about their experience.

Another problem is that we have not empowered software developers to engage in more fulfilling tasks. The 2019 State of DevOps report found that software developers often just 30 to 40% of their time actually creating functions, while most of their time is consumed by delays and administrative work. Solving these time-consuming tasks with low pay can lead to more career advancement and job satisfaction.

Tools that give tech leaders insight into this data are widely available and can dramatically improve a developer’s experience. If we leverage them, each company can begin to identify its own unique root causes of developer dissatisfaction at work.

How to improve the developer experience: give it SPACE

There are two things tech leaders should look at: the best metrics to gain real insight into DX and how to use that information to improve software developers’ sense of work.

That is a growing number of companies switch to DORA statistics to measure software development performance.

These are critical indicators, essentially measuring flexibility and quality. However, they do not 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 metric system. These include all of DORA’s metrics, but also look at the human or emotional aspect of software engineers’ work (or “Satisfaction and Wellbeing”).

Here’s a breakdown of SPACE: