DevOps culture: Job satisfaction

Early analysis performed by DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) found that job satisfaction is a predictor of organizational performance. Having engaged employees doing meaningful work drives business value.

Everybody knows how job satisfaction feels. It's about doing work that's challenging and meaningful, and being empowered to exercise skills and judgment. Where there's job satisfaction, employees bring the best of themselves to work: their engagement, their creativity, and their strongest thinking. The result is more innovation in any area of the business, including technology.

There's a virtuous circle when it comes to the benefits of job satisfaction. People do better work when they feel supported by their employers, when they have the tools and resources to do their work, and when they feel their judgment is valued. Better work results in higher software delivery performance, which results in higher organizational performance.

This cycle of continuous improvement and learning is what sets successful companies apart, enabling them to innovate, get ahead of the competition, and win.

Common pitfalls in job satisfaction

The following pitfalls are commonly related to job satisfaction:

  • Not giving people the tools they need to be successful.
  • Not giving people meaningful work.

Practitioners and leaders must remember that technology transformations are hard and take time, and often require an update in both technology and skill sets. Technology transformations also commonly require organizational changes like reorganizations and culture shifts, which can be difficult for people to navigate. If you're trying to institute change, don't forget that you must make time and resources available for improvement work. Creating change takes time, and people also need time to adjust to the changes, as you build practices such as automation and continuous integration into your delivery process. On top of that, improving process is itself a skill that needs to be learned. Teams that routinely work on improvement get better at it over time, and are more likely to stay with the company.

Ways to improve job satisfaction

DORA research on job satisfaction recommends the following key actions:

  • Give employees the tools and resources needed to do their work.

    Employees must have the tools necessary to get their work done, and teams that can decide which tools they use do better at continuous delivery. Teams that can choose their own tools make these choices based on how they work, and on the tasks they need to perform. No one knows better than practitioners what they need to be effective, so it's not surprising that practitioner tool choice helps to drive better outcomes.

    Employees must also have the resources necessary to do their work. Those might be technical resources, such as access to servers or environments necessary to develop and test, or resources needed to learn and develop new skills, such as access to course materials and budget to attend trainings or technical conferences.

  • Give employees meaningful work that leverages their expertise.

    The importance of meaningful work can't be overstated. In some studies, employees have rated the importance of meaningful work just as highly as the importance of salary. Meaningful work makes a difference and is often very personal.

Ways to measure job satisfaction

Measuring job satisfaction in systems is hard. There just isn't a good way to proxy job satisfaction in system data. Much like organizational culture, job satisfaction is a perceptual measure, so to measure it, you must ask people for their opinions. If you worry that you won't get accurate answers, that's a signal that something is wrong and it's worth looking into.

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