Analysing our engineering team’s key values
Earlier this year, a group of Finder crew members kickstarted a diversity working group within our product and engineering team. This group exists to promote positive discussion and actions around what Finder can do to encourage diversity and to make it an enjoyable team to work in.
We’ve tackled a few projects, including re-writing our job descriptions to use gender-neutral language and removing any requirements that aren’t actually essential to the role — it was extremely satisfying to see them published on our careers page!
For one of our latest activities, we were inspired by the Key Values website, which allows users to find engineering teams that share their values. They provide a list of key values that they use on their website in the form of a Google sheet. These values fit into the categories of team values, personal health, daily routines, engineering, career growth, strategy and company properties.
We decided to use this list to initiate a conversation within the group about what we thought our product and engineering team’s values currently are and what we think they should be. We were keen to get some insight into what we were doing well but, more importantly, where we needed to improve. If you’d like to get some similar insight into your team, here’s a look at the process we’ve been taking to uncover our own.
To get started, I didn’t want to make it too complicated and just wanted to get the conversation flowing. I duplicated the google sheet with the key values list and opened it up for members of our group to comment on each value. I was looking for the following insights:
- We definitely had the value (e.g. flexible work arrangements)
- We maybe had the value, but we weren’t fully convinced (e.g. engages with the community)
- We had the value, but it was low on our list of priorities (e.g. wears many hats)
- We didn’t have the value, and we didn’t want it to be a priority (e.g. has good beer)
- We didn’t have the value currently, but we wanted it (e.g. cross-department collaboration)
Interestingly, when we opened it up for discussion, a lot of us had completely different opinions on whether our team as a whole had these values. Personal experiences varied greatly. An example of this was “continuous feedback”. Some members were convinced this was a value we had currently as we have one-on-one meetings at least fortnightly with our managers. Other members disagreed, noting that while the one-on-one meetings did happen, they often didn’t get a whole lot of actionable feedback during them.
The best thing that happened was we had an open and honest discussion about areas we can improve on and what we feel our priorities are. However, the open discussion struggled to come to a conclusion, so our next step was a survey where members selected yes, no or maybe for each key value, and then we averaged out the answers.
What were the results?
We decided to narrow the results down to the following top six key values we believe our product and engineering team currently hold:
- Continuous delivery
- Work/life balance
- Flexible work arrangements
- Open communication
- Safe environment to fail
- Fosters psychological safety
This exercise definitely revealed to us the areas we needed to improve on and we’ve already started taking action. One area where we needed to improve is the value “committed to personal growth”. While we have some great initiatives like an annual training budget and a time allowance to spend on learning each week (including “learning breaks” each Friday), we’ve been lacking career growth mentoring. We’ve started looking into different ways to improve this, including trialling development plans and monthly goal setting.
As a next step, I’m keen to go back and look at all the values that returned “maybe” or “no” results and find out which of these are the highest priority for us to improve to a strong “yes”. It’s not enough to know what our values are currently. We need to understand what we want our key values to be in the future so that we can prioritise our efforts.
This key values exercise is an iterative process, so we’re hoping to have ongoing discussions on this topic. Hopefully, our experience will inspire you to look at your own team’s values and make some positive changes.