How to Build a Strong Engineering Culture

Building a strong engineering culture is essential to drive learning, development, and problem-solving, and to maintain company values.

Company culture is a set of common values, goals, and activities which define a given group of people. Those who decide to join this group therefore embrace the culture that comes with it. Where culture comes from a company’s values and creates a particular working environment, these values then guide teams towards better decision-making and improved productivity and efficiency. Engineering culture is more specific in that it adopts a common set of values that impact software development and the decisions and tasks related to software development. Because an engineering culture is important for your organization, this article defines engineering culture, explains the importance of it, and outlines some tangible ways to foster a great engineering culture. 

What is engineering culture? 

An engineering culture is made up of the different but consistent attitudes and behaviors that lead an organization in its engineering projects and tasks. Your organization’s engineering culture should focus on keeping the developers engaged and maintaining the integrity of their work. Creating a collective mindset or an engineering culture is far more important than focusing purely on code and technical work because it’s this group collaboration and cohesion that will keep employees happy at work and maintain a high standard of productivity and quality of work. Organizational culture and engineering culture are interconnected in that a company’s values, behaviors, and attitudes should be mirrored throughout all teams within the organization. 

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The importance of a good engineering culture

1Fosters innovation

A good engineering culture can foster innovation among the team. Because there is more communication and a clear common ground when the engineering culture is strong, employees tend to feel more comfortable to be creative, think outside the box, and bring new ideas forward. When individuals feel comfortable, appreciated, and seen within the organization, they feel free to share innovative ideas without any kind of fear or anxiety of their visions not being well received by the rest of the team. Essentially, a strong engineering culture can also create psychological safety and a space where new skills can be practiced, backed by a supportive team. 

2Retains talented engineers

If you’re looking to retain talented engineers, you’ll benefit from establishing a good engineering culture. Companies that have strong engineering cultures tend to have higher employee satisfaction, which is shown by a much lower employee churn, higher engagement, and long-term employees who have stayed to continue their professional development and to continue achieving further growth in their careers. When expectations are well defined, competencies can continue to be built over time. 

3Improves customer satisfaction

Establishing an engineering culture also improves customer satisfaction. With more innovation and less employee churn, companies tend to see much higher delivery than in organizations that don’t have an established engineering culture. This higher delivery rate means that customers are being better served and attended to, ultimately improving customer satisfaction while simultaneously benefiting the team as well. 

8 ways to foster a good engineering culture 

1Use a management tool 

Using a management tool is a fabulous way to foster a strong engineering culture because it enables you and your team to streamline necessary but time-consuming responsibilities. When you choose to outsource the running of repetitive tasks to a management tool, you allow your engineers to be released from doing more trivial work so they can better focus their attention on tasks that are more heavily weighted in importance. A tool like Fellow, therefore, optimizes time management and business goals. Deploying the best available management tool will bring you that much closer to fostering a good engineering culture. 

2Encourage learning 

When you encourage learning and professional development, you provide your engineers with attractive opportunities that encourage them to enroll in courses or expand their knowledge in areas that interest them. These interests often translate into beneficial skills that can be used in everyday tasks as well as in larger projects. Make it a priority for each team member to identify their professional development goals and aspirations so you can help get them closer to these achievements. Provide benefits that allow employees to enroll in courses, seminars, and training sessions to expand their learning. 

3Align company goals with the engineers’ goals

A good engineering culture is able to align organization goals with the engineers’ goals. This alignment will require good communication and compromise on both sides but will create a synergy that promotes productivity and both individual and collective successes. A strong engineering culture means that everyone shares the same purpose and general vision for the future. When you’re able to support the aspirations of a team member while aligning them to the larger (but not necessarily more important), overarching organizational goals, you have met a good match for your engineering culture. You’ll be able to satisfy their needs as well as your own. 

4Foster effective communication

Effective communication is central to the success of any organization, but especially to one that is working to establish a clear and attractive engineering culture. Ensure that you’re listening intently to the goals of your team members and potential future employees to decide whether the organization can truly support their interests, goals, and aspirations. Further, be sure to check in regularly with your developers so you can discuss their satisfaction and measure theirs and the company’s progress simultaneously. When you clearly communicate on an individual and team level, you secure the success of the company. 

5Leverage agile methods

If you’re looking to establish a strong engineering culture, be sure that you’re leveraging agile methods. Because agile software development relies heavily on customer feedback to make changes to the software product, you’ll be making many iterations of the same software. Optimizing your iteration speeds means giving developers autonomy and flexibility to make their own decisions. It’s effective to organize regular agile meetings with your team. To make sure your team is prepared, be sure to outline exactly what you expect to discuss and questions they should have the answers to in a meeting agenda. Send the agenda to your team ahead of time so when the meeting begins, you and your team can hit the ground running.

6Collaborate on projects 

Encouraging collaboration will go a long way in establishing a good engineering culture. Effective collaboration means that when someone is leading a project, everyone on the engineering team is on the same page and is aware of the collective ideas and insights of each team member contributing. Rather than using a top-down structure where one individual leads and passes information down the chain, get used to collaborative meetings in which you can discuss, engage in problem-solving, brainstorm, and tackle challenges together so the whole team is in the know and updated. A huge part of collaboration is communication, and listening to the ideas and concerns of others is especially important.

7Create a culture of accountability, consistency, and inclusion 

Fellow helps culture leaders promote and implement best practices for effective one-on-ones and team meetings across their organization so businesses can create a culture of accountability, consistency, and inclusion. Fellow’s tools allow you to create workspace-wide templates that can be used by everyone in your organization, regardless of their department or title. You can use the action items function to drive accountability across your team, assigning specific team members and due dates so you can track your progress in the most effective way possible. If you’re concerned that some meetings aren’t happening as regularly as they should be (like one-on-ones), you can always investigate by using the workspace analytics tool.

8Give and receive regular feedback 

A healthy, strong culture starts with feedback. Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance. Make sure that you give and receive regular feedback and place an importance on feedback so it becomes embedded in your engineering culture. Employees who receive consistent feedback are more fulfilled in their jobs, leading to higher productivity and higher retention of your top engineering talent. Fellow makes it easy to ask for feedback about meetings and projects, and respond both on the web and through Slack. 

Parting advice 

Building a strong engineering culture will provide all kinds of opportunities for your team which will result in more learning, growth, collaboration, and achievements. A good engineering culture is important to establish because it fosters innovation, retains your most talented engineers, and improves customer satisfaction. If you’re looking to build or improve your engineering culture, consider using a management tool to streamline necessary but time-consuming responsibilities. Always encourage learning and align your organizational goals with the engineers’ goals. Foster effective communication, leverage effective agile methods and collaborate on projects to bring your best ideas forward. Create a culture of accountability, consistency, and inclusion while giving and receiving regular feedback. Over time, your engineering culture will continue to improve until it’s a total success. 


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About the author

Kate Dagher

Kate Dagher, BA Communications and Business Management, has a management and corporate consulting background, having worked in the public sector, sales and corporate finance. She is now making a shift from business to psychology and bridging her knowledge from both domains, as she pursues a Graduate degree in psychology at Trinity College, Dublin. Kate is fascinated about how our physical environments influence our thoughts, behaviours, actions and wellbeing. She is a certified yoga teacher, a passionate writer and traveller.

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