Buffer has had a busy season for our design, product and engineering team – which we collectively call EPD. In the last eight months alone, we hired a product manager for the first time, promoted our design manager to a team member first, completely redesigned and redesigned our EPD team, created new roles in the team, and hired 10 new product and design team members now in our 48-person EPD area.
That’s a lot of change. Therefore, in the spring of 2021, we conducted a survey of EPD groups to understand the level of commitment of our team members and our “eNPS” employee, the NPS, or if group members would recommend Buffer as a workplace.
I dived deep into the experiences of the design team in particular – the result was an honest, eye-opening review of the experiences of our team members, and we have a lot of action steps in our learning.
A few key pickups:
- The teammates of the designers have very different and different needs depending on their position in Buffer (6+ years, 2-6 years, less than 2 years).
- Women on the design team have a much lower eNPS than their male counterparts.
We would like to share the results of the survey openly with a note that I shared with our team.
Thank you very much for completing the EPD Engagement survey. Here is a breakdown for us in the design:
Commitment is quite high, and eNPS 38 is fine. About half of you actively recommend a bumper for work, half think you are kind of ok, and a couple of people don’t actively recommend a bumper.
If we break it down, a few interesting things arise:
Breakdown by term of office
Veterans: 6+ years in buffer
Veterans feel most committed to the company (100%), positive to co-workers (100%), and feel they are here (100%), but no longer see themselves growing in their careers (29%).
This makes sense: only people who like their co-workers and the company would stay for more than six years, and even then, managers will have to work harder to find career opportunities.
So the focus of this group is on career development, and it’s the main driver going from “it’s ok” – “it’s great here”. This honestly becomes more difficult over time – to keep the growth curve after many years – and that is why we need to be more creative in these discussions. With Lattice estimates and growth plans happening now, it’s one way to think about what veteran teams are following.
Tenant teammates: 2-6 years in Buffer
The teammates who have been here for 2-6 years are our largest group. Commitment and eNPS are the same as the overall design average, and this includes some people who don’t actively recommend a buffer as a workplace.
This group is happiest with leadership (94%) and team culture (94%), but is also the most exhausted group. Only 38 percent of this group has energy for leisure, friends, and family after work. They also don’t feel that this hard work is noticed: only 44% of respondents say people find they go the extra mile (or a hundred miles).
In this group, work-life balance and workload management are the main focus, with burning and unknown appreciation as the main concern. This is an active focus for me and the design managers who have also heard this.
Newer teammates: Less than 2 years at Buffer
Teammates with less than two years at Buffer are by far the happiest. Again, no one in this group actively thinks of buffer design as a bad workplace. I’m glad to see this because it means our outside image and the people inside us aren’t very different (if we talked about the big game during recruitment and blogging, but were horrible to work, we’d like to see new people’s EPPS lower with many low-income workers) .
This group scored each meter at 100% (seriously!) Except that it felt valued at 67%.
For this group, the most important thing is to acknowledge the contribution, thank you and appreciate the opinion. We hear you!
Breakdown by gender
Gender is one factor where people can have very different experiences in the same workplace. There are other factors as well, but we have no information on them. We have enough people to get information, which is great. What’s not great is that women in technology have a very different and much worse experience than men.
Note: all respondents happened to identify either “male” or “female” in the gender binary, so I only have two gender groups. Nevertheless, there are many genders.
Men in technology
Women in technology
Obviously, this is a problem. I would rather have a team with an eNPS of 20 and all genders get points for “everything is ok here” than that some genders say “good is great” and other genders say “it’s just ok” or “it’s awful” .
It is also noteworthy that the participation of engineering skills in the survey was a bit low. This means that an eNPS of 0 is likely to be overestimated. People who do not complete the survey are usually not very happy. More likely, non-respondents are either passive or negative (“it’s great, and I don’t have time for surveys” or “it’s so horrible and hopeless that there’s no reason to even fill out a survey”).
There’s good news: at least some women say it’s great to work here! In addition, women rate management as 100% (we have 50% engineering skills, so it could be part of it) and the value of team culture is 100%, women consider their colleagues to be professional and do quality work.
Job satisfaction is good for 80%, as is Fit & Belonging (80%). So the good news is that women don’t feel actively marginalized, arrested, and discriminated against. It’s a low bar, but one of the teams fails to figure it out.
For women, employment relationships were lowest. While “my supervisor cares about me” and “my co-workers want me to succeed” is 100%, “people know what’s going on in my life” is only 20%. Women don’t feel comfortable talking about what happens to them outside of work.
Women are also more exhausted on average, and only 40 percent have energy for other things outside of work.
One hypothesis or story is here the pandemic has been particularly severe for working mothers, and women continue to pull double the change in many cases. As a working mother or caring for parents and relatives, there is also often stigma, so women feel exhausted and also unable to talk about anything that throws them in and out of work. Women are socialized to smile, to be nice, not to complain, to hold everyone together, and they have a lot of guilt and pressure to always be on, always “doing everything”. This is true for society as a whole. So, that may be true of our women in technology, and the problem if Buffer doesn’t do enough to support them.
Another interesting piece of information: women gained below-average confidence in senior management decisions without a “strong agree” and a few “disagree”. I recently read a post Glue which provides a possible explanation here:
Women are socialized as caregivers and often take on extra work to protect their team members from leadership decisions that can be challenging for others to adapt to. Recent changes to the organization chart come to mind; there may be other factors. If women feel the effect statistically and are tired of trying to mitigate this effect, while men are more likely to experience the benefits of that glue / nursing without so much cost, it could explain some of the differences between men’s and women’s experiences. That is a hypothesis. It’s a story I could tell about this team and the industry. I don’t know if this is our story.
To learn more about what the story (s) really are, Melissa [our new VP of People] and I’m going to have a session with women in engineering to hear more about the experience of being a female engineer at Buffer and why it’s different – and worse – than the experience of a man as an engineer.
For men reading this, you are definitely welcome to share your thoughts directly with Melissa or me. If you’ve noticed something that would negatively impact your female co-workers, I definitely want to hear about it, and if you have any ideas, share.
The reason I don’t include men in that live conversation is because I want to hear women’s stories from women because in the data we see that the story for women is different. I hope this makes sense. I am also happy to talk more about it.
I do not have enough information on race and sexual orientation to have a statistically significant sample size, so I cannot draw conclusions for these groups as part of this survey. We know that these groups can also have a harder time in the whole industry.
In the long run, a more diverse team means more knowledge. In the short term, we need to rely on other methods to ensure that everyone has an equal experience. Work needs to be done, and if it is not in the research results, it will not remove it.
As we continue to make changes and improvements to Buffer’s design experience, we look forward to sharing learning along the way.
Feel free to contact me on Twitter at @gokatiewilde continue the discussion on building committed and satisfied design teams. Always happy to chat!