This has been a busy season for our engineering, production and design teams at Buffer – what we call the EPD together. In just the past eight months, we have hired a product director for the first time, promoted a team member to our first vice president of design, completely redesigned and restructured the way we organize our EPD teams, created new team roles and hired 10 new products and engineering team. our now EPD area of 48 people.
That’s a big change. Thus, in the spring of 2021, we published a survey of EPD teams to understand the level of engagement of our team members and our “eNPS” – an employee of NPS, or team members would recommend Buffer as a place to work.
I especially dived deep into the experience of the engineering team — the results were an honest look that opened my eyes to the experience of our team members, and we have to take many steps for action from our learning.
Some key conclusions:
- Engineering teammates have very different and different needs depending on their seniority at Buffer (6+ years, 2-6 years, less than 2 years).
- Women on the engineering team have a much lower eNPS than their male counterparts.
Below, we would like to transparently share the survey results through a note I shared with our team.
Thank you so much for completing the EPD Engagement Engagement. Here is the division for us in engineering:
The engagement is quite high, and the eNPS at 38 is fine. About half of you actively recommend Buffer as a place to work, half think it’s okay, and a few people actively don’t recommend Buffer.
If we explain this, a few more interesting things will appear:
Division by length of service
Veterans: 6+ years at Buffer
Veterans feel the greatest commitment to the company (100%), are positive towards colleagues (100%) and feel they belong here (100%), but do not see that they are really growing anymore in their careers (29%).
This makes sense: only people who love their co-workers and society will stay for more than six years, and also, in that time frame, managers have to work harder to find career development opportunities.
So the focus of this group is career growth, and this is the main driver of the transition from “it’s okay” to “it’s great here”. Honestly, it’s getting harder over time – to keep the growth curve after many years – so we need to be more creative in these conversations. Given that Lattice reviews and growth plans are happening now, this is one way to think about what’s next for veteran teammates.
Conducted teams: 2-6 years in Buffer
The teammates who have been here for 2-6 years are our biggest group. Engagement and eNPS are the same as the comprehensive average, and this includes some people who do not actively recommend Buffer as a place to work.
This group is happiest with management (94%) and team culture (94%), but it is also a group that is exhausted. Only 38% of this group have energy for free time, friends and family after work. They also don’t think this hard work has been noticed: only 44% of respondents say people notice they go the extra mile (or a hundred miles).
For this group, work-life balance and workload management are the main focus, with burnout and not feeling valued as a major concern. This is an active focus for me and for engineering managers who have also heard this.
Newer teammates: Less than 2 years in Buffer
Teammates with less than two years in the Buffer are the happiest. Again, no one in this group actively thinks that buffer engineering is a bad place to work. I’m glad to see that because it means that our external image and who we are on the inside don’t differ much (that we talked about the big game during hiring and blogs, but that it’s awful to work on them, see that the eNPS of new people is lower with many critics).
This group rated each metric as 100% (seriously!) In addition to a sense of value, at 67%.
For this group, recognizing contributions, praising and valuing their opinions are the most important things to improve. We hear you!
Division by gender
Gender is one of the factors where people can have different experiences in the same workplace. There are other factors, but we have no data on them. We have enough people to have data, which is great. What is not great is that women in engineering have a different and much worse experience than men.
Note: all respondents identified themselves as “male” or “female” within gender binary, so I have only two categories represented by gender. However, there are many genders.
People in engineering
Women in Engineering
Obviously, this is a problem. I’d rather have a team with an eNPS of 20 and all genders who rated it “okay here” than some genders say “it’s good to great” and others say “it’s okay” or “it’s awful” .
It is also noticeable that the participation of women in engineering in the research was a bit low. This means that an eNPS of 0 is probably overestimated. People who don’t fill out the survey are usually not super happy. They are more likely to be unexamined or passive or negative (“it’s okay, and I don’t have time for polls” or “it’s so horrible and hopeless that it doesn’t even make sense to fill out a poll”).
There’s good news: at least some women say it’s great to work here! Also, women rated management 100% (we have 50% women engineering managers, so that could be part of that), and team culture was rated 100%: women think their co-workers are skilled and work well.
Job satisfaction at 80% is good, and so is Fit & Belonging (80%). So the good news is that women do not feel actively excluded, constrained and discriminated against. It’s a low ranking, but it’s one problem that many teams fail to erase.
For women, employment was one of the lowest results. While “my supervisor cares about me” and “my co-workers want me to succeed” at 100%, “people know what’s going on in my life” at only 20%. Women are not comfortable talking about what is happening to them outside of work.
Women are also more exhausted of the average, with only 40% having energy for other things outside of work.
One hypothesis or story here is that the pandemic has been extremely stressful for working mothers, and women still in many cases pull a double shift. There is often a stigma around being a busy mom or caring for parents and relatives, so women feel exhausted and can’t talk about everything that exhausts them at work and outside of work. Women are socialized to smile, be kind, not complain, have it all together and face a lot of guilt and pressure to be always available, always “doing everything”. This is true throughout society. So that could be true for our women in engineering and a problem if Buffer doesn’t do enough to support them.
Another interesting fact: women had a lower average than confidence in the decisions of senior management, without “strong agreements” and a few “disagreements”. I recently read a post on the Be Glue page that offers a possible explanation here:
Women are socialized to nurture and often take on extra work to protect their team members from decisions made in leadership that could be a challenge for others to adjust to. Recent changes to the organization’s chart come to mind; there may be other factors. If women statistically feel the impact and are tired of trying to mitigate that impact, while men are more likely to feel the benefits of that glue / care without that much cost, this could explain some of the differences between men’s and women’s experiences. That is a hypothesis. It’s a story I could tell from the data I have about this team and from industry data. I don’t know if that’s our story.
To learn more about what a story (stories?) Is, Melissa [our new VP of People] and I will be leading a session with women in engineering to hear more about the experience of a female engineer at Buffer and why it is different – and even worse – from the experience of a man in engineering.
For men reading this, you are absolutely welcome to share your thoughts with Melissa or with me directly. If you’ve noticed something that would negatively impact your female co-workers, I absolutely want to hear about it, and if you have ideas, share them.
The reason I don’t include men in this live discussion is that I want to hear women’s stories from women because, according to the data, we see that the story is different for women. I hope this makes sense. And I’m glad to talk more about it.
I do not have enough data on race and sexual orientation to have statistically significant sample sizes, so I cannot draw any conclusions for these groups as part of this study. We know that these groups can also have a harder time in the industry in general.
In the long run, a more diverse team will mean more data. In the short term, we will have to rely on other methods to ensure that everyone has the same experience. There is work to be done, and his absence in the survey results does not erase that work.
As we continue to make changes and improvements to the engineering experience at Buffer, we look forward to sharing our knowledge along the way.
Feel free to contact me on Twitter at @gokatiewilde continue the conversation about building engaged and fulfilled engineering teams. We are always happy to talk!
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