With the success of many software-based businesses in the last decade, more companies than ever utilize startup methods to accelerate their project development. The rise of literature like the Lean Startup has shifted decision makers’ focus from quality to time to market. Although there are numerous benefits of using startup methods to develop software faster, it can negatively impact staff engagement if this period is prolonged.
When software is developed faster with the goal of creating minimum viable products, there’s usually significant technical debt that is created. This debt often means developers and team members must do a lot of additional work on top of their workload to finish projects on time. Excess technical debt makes it very difficult for employees to be engaged due to the vast workload. If technical debt goes unchecked within companies, it can lead to very low staff engagement and ultimately more turnover.
Current engagement rates among IT staff
Employee engagement is a key issue for most companies, but it is more pronounced with companies that have technology workers like developers and engineers. Since these skilled personnel are responsible for most of the innovation that takes place in the company, low levels of engagement amongst them are alarming. IT employees have some of the lowest reported employee engagement levels. Here are some startling statistics about their engagement.
● 3 out of 4 IT employees don’t know their company’s mission and values
● Only 19% have reported to be highly satisfied at work
● Less than 1 in 5 IT employees feel valued at work
With this level of engagement, technical debt must be avoided at all costs by companies.
The compounding effects of low employee engagement, bad work cultures and technical debt is a recipe for regression for most enterprises.
Impact of technical debt on staff engagement:
Time and work pressure:
The original goal of using agile methods was to reach the market quickly. Once the product reaches market and receives user feedback, a new goal is set by management. This typically overlooks the technical debt created by the first sprint and leads to significantly more time and work pressure for employees. This directly leads to less staff engagement because team morale is deflated, and the goals set by management are much harder to accomplish in a given time frame.
Lack of innovation:
A driving factor of what motivates employees is working on exciting projects. When technical debt accrues, employees will spend most if not all their day cleaning up technical issues instead of working on the highest leverage project in the company. This decreased staff engagement significantly and can also reduce employee productivity. Technical debt leads to compounding work for employees, so it can take a team weeks if not months to recover from one instance of accrued technical debt.
When employees are overworked and stressed for a long period of time, they ultimately resort to leaving the company. Technical talent like developers and engineers are extremely sought after by companies, so they already have relatively short careers at companies. Adding technical debt and a toxic work environment will only accelerate their departure. Since the majority of businesses are failing to address technical, talented personnel are choosing to go work at better and more established companies.
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