The value
of tech work
culture

Introduction

The phrase ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is tossed around a lot - to the point where it’s borderline cliche to say it. However, as circumstances became unprecedented over the last couple of years, the demand for engineering talent was sky-high and concurrently, the pandemic forced teams to go remote, making it increasingly difficult to build a work culture conducive to achieving a high level of productivity and job satisfaction.

Further, the pandemic, the great resignation, and the not-so-great recession have made us realize that a good work culture is a constant, in the face of all the variables that the world presents. Culture gets companies through when times are rough, and launches the company forward when times are good. So, we set out to figure out the value of a good work culture, and appreciate what goes into creating a good work culture for teams, regardless of whether the force is remote, on-ground or hybrid.

The learnings we had along the way have been at the heart of our new approach to building teams at HackerEarth and we hope that this report can shed some light on how you can kindle a trust-
based work culture that is conducive to high levels of
productivity and job satisfaction.

Swetha
Harikrishnan

HR Director HackerEarth

FINDING 1

Intent to change jobs is at an all time high

86%

of our Community say they are looking for a job change

Community

91%

of HR Leaders are concerned about immediate attrition

HR Leaders
Source

High attrition rates are a given in tech. Of course, the current inflation rates have led to a slew of layoffs, causing attrition rates to increase much more than anticipated. However, building new technologies or including layers of tech in a company’s operating stack are not going to cease in the long term. In other words, the long-term demand for the engineering skillset might wax and wane, but will remain high relative to other skill groups.

Situations had come to a head towards the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. Gartner stated that 91% of HR Leaders were concerned about immediate attrition. Upon discovering Gartner’s findings, we ran a survey of our developer community to get an understanding of just how many developers were looking for a new job. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been shocked given Gartner’s findings, but the fact that nearly 86% of the HackerEarth community were on the lookout for a new job opportunity certainly raised eyebrows.

Given that this survey took place before tech stocks plummeted and thousands of employees were laid off, we wanted to find the reason why the intent to attrite was as high as it was. Which led us to our next finding.

FINDING 2

A lack of culture is the biggest reason why employees change jobs

Attrition is 10.4 times more likely if workplace
culture is toxic

Compensation Toxic work culture Source

In early 2022, MIT Sloan released an article surmising the top reasons for attrition, and found that toxic workplace culture was the leading driver of attrition. The study claimed that a toxic workplace culture was 10.4 times more likely to contribute to attrition than compensation. This statistic not only broke the narrative that compensation drove attrition in tech, but drove us to understand what constitutes a ‘good’ work culture for engineers. So, we asked our community and here’s what we found.

While some responses did indicate the need for more flexibility through policies such as unlimited paid time off, and flexible timings, an overwhelming number of responses implied that a good work culture is one where employees have upskilling opportunities, challenging work, collaboration and real impact.

This shows us that developers are passionate about their craft. They’re constantly looking for ways to learn new skills, challenge themselves, collaborate and cause impact. However, doesn’t this description of the ideal work culture sound eerily similar to the careers pages of most companies? That brings us to the next finding.

PRO TIP

Given that developers want to collaborate, upskill and be challenged at the workplace, internal hackathons are a great way to not only empower employees, but also create a workplace culture that places emphasis on innovation.

Get a free demo of our Internal Hackathons today!
Pro Tip
FINDING 3

Establishing
trust is Step 1

Employees are 22 times more likely to move on
from a low-trust environment

Trust work Environment Low trust work Environment Source

To paraphrase Patrick Lencioni, without trust, there will be a fear of conflict, a lack of commitment, a lack of accountability, and an inattention to team objectives. So, to build a good team culture, establishing trust is certainly the first and most important step. Here are a couple of principles we’ve instituted at HackerEarth so that our culture inspires trust.

Hire for IQ and EQ

When hiring someone, we look to grade their skills, but also look for indicators of the kind of human being they are. We also discuss each candidate with the rest of the panel so perspectives from all stakeholders are accounted for. While there are a lot more ways of gauging a candidate’s EQ, habitually doing just this much has helped us create a culture that is conducive to growth.

Provide opportunity

The truth is, at any given point in time, there are people in any given team who feel that they are ready for more responsibility. So, if productivity won’t be disrupted, we consider promoting a top performer instead of hiring someone new. We’ve seen that this has led to an increase in morale and motivation, resulting in an atmosphere that is conducive to growth.

FINDING 4

Fairness and DEI are deeply valued by developers

82%

of employees say their
workplace lacks fairness

Lacks fairness Source

According to the 2021 HackerEarth State of Developer Recruitment report, about half the companies surveyed said that they have been offering opportunities to underrepresented groups and running outreach programs with the goal of making the workforce more fair, diverse and inclusive. Moreover, according to Harvard Business Review’s analysis of S&P 500 earnings calls, the frequency with which CEOs talk about issues of equity, fairness and inclusion on these calls has increased by 658% since 2018. Clearly, the intent to encourage fairness and DEI is strong, but some companies are still falling short from the developers’ point of view.

Speaking out of experience, this discrepancy is likely due to the presence of unconscious biases in the recruitment process. They creep in, and before you know it, there is a gulf between the intentions of the employer and ground reality. We’ve learned that focussing purely on evaluating job skills and gauging the EQ of a candidate is the most effective way to counter this situation.

PRO TIP

Creating a skills-based recruiting process can be hard without a tool that allows you to evaluate a candidate’s skills with a high degree of accuracy. That’s exactly why we created HackerEarth Assessments. Our coding test engine helps recruiters and hiring managers create exhaustive tests for over 20 job roles, which in turn makes shortlisting top candidates a breeze.

Get a free demo today!
Skill
FINDING 5

AI will bring sweeping changes to management in tech

By 2025, up to

65%

of the tasks that a manager currently does could be automated

Task Automation Source

As a provider of HR-tech software, we are familiar with the role that automation can play in team management. Every hour of bandwidth we save has resulted in more lines of code being written, and has given HR leaders more space and time for building culture. This is to say that automation need not be a bad thing. It gives employers the freedom to think more strategically, and could potentially bring massive positive impact.

In the context of building work culture, we believe that the best way to utilize any surplus bandwidth is to make real, human connections with reportees. What we have realized is that the last few years have been quite taxing emotionally. So, some employees might be in a lull, while some might have a renewed sense of optimism. However, all of them have a need for interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers after a long period of solitude. So it’s hugely important to make the workplace such that our colleagues are comfortable to be themselves.

FINDING 6

Not all
attrition is bad

On average,
turnover costs an organization

Exit

per departing employee.

Source

Yes, our finding and the data point that followed seem to be in contrast, but consider this: what if an employee is unproductive, and at times, a bad influence on the rest of the team? Or, what if the employee’s growth trajectory and ambition do not match up to that of the company’s?

In both those scenarios, attrition might be a good thing.

Perhaps our biggest learning through the last few years was understanding that there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ employee. Ultimately, it always comes down to fit. Which means that, as the employer, our responsibility is to create an atmosphere where an employee is able to learn and grow when they’re a part of the team such that both the company’s as well as the employee’s horizons broaden. In other words, we should want what is best for both the employee and the company - even if that results in attrition.

A closing note

Looking back over our careers, yes we remember the big wins, but those memories are so much fonder because of the people we worked with. This is the case with me, and I’m sure that this is the case with you as well. That is why, my hope with this report is that it helps create more productive workplaces that have a high quotient of inclusivity and trust.

If you want to add to this conversation, please feel free to write to me at swetha@hackerearth.com
with any questions you might have or stories you want to share.

Until then, I hope that reading this report left you hopeful that better workplace cultures are very much achievable.

Closing Note