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InfoQ Homepage Articles InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report - March 2022

InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report - March 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Hybrid work needs careful redesign and reassessment of the workplace and will be a significant challenge going forward
  • Culture matters more than ever before as people are reassessing their options around workplaces and styles
  • Team topologies and being deliberate about team formation are aspects of culture design that can support better outcomes
  • The gaps between good and bad workplaces are widening and people are voting with their feet (or video conferencing cameras)
  • Leadership styles and approaches need to evolve to support the needs of teams and individuals today
  • Paying attention to physical and mental wellness matters and can’t be treated as an afterthought
  • The podcast InfoQ Culture & Methods Trends Report - March 2022 is also available

This year’s trends report is definitely the most pessimistic we’ve seen in the last decade.  Some trends we saw last year have hit bumps and roadblocks and some early cultural successes have dropped back. 

Many of the points we made in last year’s trend report are still true, and sadly there has not been a lot of movement in the topics on the left of the technology adoption curve.  2021 was a year of consolidation, massive movement of people and more pressure being put on already tired teams.

Overcoming hybrid hell

The biggest theme coming into 2022 is hybrid working, the mix of in-office and remote working that has the potential to become a worst of both worlds solution.  So far, very few organisations have figured out how to make hybrid actually work and we don’t see that improving much in the near term.  Sadly, there is very little good hybrid and figuring out what that even looks like will be something that will take a long time.  

On a positive note there are a few organisations who are deliberately tackling the hybrid challenges and addressing them through careful redesign of their office environments as collaboration spaces.  

Another very early trend is the adoption of immersive VR for remote collaboration - a few early adopters are experimenting with VR and the tools are improving to the point they are becoming useful for pair, team and larger group collaboration events. 

We still see a strong divide between good remote and bad remote, and in conjunction with bad remote we are seeing some organisations bringing in a forced back to the office strategy, resulting in them losing good people in the great resignation.  

Making culture visible

Some organisations are actively working to make their culture tangible and visible through the use of culture handbooks.  The most successful realise that it’s not about just writing things down, everyone in the organisation needs to actively live the values they espouse in the handbook - employees know when it’s just lip service and become disillusioned and demotivated. 

Team Topologies gaining traction 

Innovator and early adopter organisations are taking a careful look at how they design their organisation structures, using team topologies as a guide to enable more effective collaboration.   Where this is happening we see glimmer of hope around effective hybrid work and a slow push towards more humanistic workplaces.  There are examples and patterns that are emerging to help show possible ways forward.  

IT Retreating 

The last two years have taken a toll on people across every organisation, and the IT teams who put so much into keeping their companies running and adapted to the massive changes around them are tired and disillusioned.  Burnout is at an alltime high, particularly among security teams.  One of the impacts of tired teams is lower collaboration, particularly in large enterprises where there has traditionally been a business-IT divide.  We see many IT teams retreating to “order taking” mode - tell us your requirements and we will build exactly what you ask for.  This lack of collaboration and retreat from engagement with “the business” results in dissatisfied stakeholders, disadvantaged users and customers and generally poorer products. 

The gulf between good and bad workplaces is getting wider

The gulf between good and bad workplaces is much more evident and visible today.  Toxic workplaces are on the rise at the same time as more organisations are adopting humanistic practices.  We see strong contrasts with fewer organisations falling in the middle.

Facilitation is a key skillset

In 2021 we identified the need for facilitation skills for leaders and teams.  In 2022 this has become even more important.  Everyone on a team needs to be able to step up and facilitate both in-person and remotely when needed.  The breadth of facilitation skills needed today are wider as well - not just leading a workshop in-person, but creating engaging experiences using remote tools and in the hybrid space ensuring that the remote participants don’t feel left out or sidelined and ensuring participants feel safe to engage.  These are skills that can be learned and must be actively worked on.  

An important aspect of good facilitation today is familiarity and competency with the range of remote collaboration tools, and that ecosystem is constantly getting more complex and confusing. 

Leadership must change

In the post-COVID, remote, hybrid world the leadership competencies that enabled success before need to expand and adapt.  Creating environments where people can thrive, where differences are celebrated and where the emphasis is on outcomes not outputs means building up a different set of leadership skills at all levels in the organisation.  

Diversity & inclusion matter

Diversity in all its various aspects matters today - not just because diverse teams are more successful, but because it’s the right thing to do, to create more just workplaces and a more just society overall.   The trends over the last two years have been away from diversity in the workplace, and this is something that as an industry we need to tackle.  Almost every team today is cross-cultural, and we need to learn how to collaborate better through understanding each other.  Remote work presents opportunities to embrace more diversity and potentially allows people who have been disadvantaged to engage more effectively in the workforce.

Mindfulness, wellness and mental health

Coming out of the pandemic, mental and physical wellness is something that we need to continue to focus on and support.  There is more acceptance that mental health challenges can and should be discussed in the workplace, which helps to reduce some of the bias and stigma that people experience when struggling with mental wellness.  Mindfulness and wellness programs are gaining some ground as organisations recognise the need to support their people in more holistic ways.

Low-code/No-code opportunities and threats

Low-code and no-code tools are both an opportunity and a risk for organisations.  Responsible team ownership and engineering of Low Code/No Code is needed to avoid security risk and technical debt introduced by low code integrations.  DevOps in no/low-code environments is a challenge   The low lower-barrier to entry and time-to-debt for adhoc low-code solutions is something that needs to be carefully managed.

Ethical behaviours matter

The software industry faces wicked problems and ethical challenges in developing complex software systems and managing them is part of a larger social, economic, and environmental fabric.   Ethical decisions can be hard and ethical training is still absent in most software engineering courses and many self-taught engineers have never even considered the topic.  We need to step up as individuals and as an industry to ensure that the products we build are about improving the world, not making it worse. 

Developer education is evolving

The 2020 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report predicts data and software engineering roles as being those which will continue to be in the highest demand. In response to this this we’re seeing engineering education under-going a major shift and disruption away from the traditional university model. With the rise of bootcamps and Massively Open Online Classrooms, a 2021 study showed that those graduating from shorter skills-focussed courses had better hiring rates than those graduating from Ivy League programmes. 

The 2020 Coding Bootcamp Alumni Outcomes and Demographics Report showed bootcamp graduates out-performing university graduates in employment outcomes, as well as having an increased representation across gender and ethnicity. The Harvard Gazette also reported on an academic panel’s discussion of how online courses were addressing the demographic imbalance of those entering STEM careers. Candlefox blogged about how organisations such as New Zealand’s, fully remote, Developers Institute address the gender imbalance by marketing an engineering pathway which does not include traditional gender bias.

Listen to the Trends Report Discussion on the InfoQ Engineering Culture Podcast

The Culture & Methods editorial team met remotely to discuss these trends and we recorded our discussion as a podcast.  You can listen to the discussion and get a feel for the thinking behind these trends.

 

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