These days it seems as though everyone is trying to live in an Agile world. It makes sense. Agile practices help turn teams into lean, efficient, productive machines. What is not always so clear is the effect that Agile practices have on the morale of a team. A team in which the individuals feel a sense of satisfaction in their work and careers is a productive and happy team. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not always so simple.
In the world of metrics which helps to drive Agile and DevOps plans in organizations, one of the white whales of metrics is discovering a way to measure team happiness. One thing that businesses are discovering when hunting down these metrics is that they are far more effective when accepted by the team rather than being forced upon them. The primary goal needs to be improving the team.
The happiness metric gauges team members’ feelings about relationships within, team practices, and how it feels to be a part of the organization at large. The long-term goal is to measure employee and team member satisfaction and use those measurements to help the team increase its effectiveness. In its highest-level form, company leaders should use these metrics to see which obstacles they can remove to promote the team’s happiness or satisfaction.
Some might scoff at such a metric. That it seems too hard to collect, and that the data will be imprecise, but there are ways and we are going to discuss them in this article.
On the surface it might seem like the goal of this metric is to judge team members and report those findings to management level team leaders. That is not the case. While management is well served by having this data, the goal is to help the teams and individuals.
Any organization trying to gather the data to determine happiness metrics also needs to understand its goal in discovering it. The way we have used it in the past is to help open discussion between team members and managers and to help understand how the data can be used to improve team life. When the individual is happy the team and the business overall benefits.
Perhaps the most important aspect of collecting this data is trust. Individuals that share their thoughts and emotions need to feel safe that these admissions will be used to improve their work lives. Otherwise, the truth may never come out and your metrics will be compromised.
How do we figure out the metrics of team happiness? Let’s take a look at some examples.
Measure team member mood
It is as simple as asking someone. The simplest way is to gauge team member happiness via one on one meetings. If you want to go further you can use something like a survey or an app to help you measure team happiness, satisfaction, engagement, and well-being.
Another way to take the pulse of a company without being too invasive or asking difficult questions is to measure the rates of employee turnover and absenteeism. A happy team does not miss work and their members stay with the organization for longer periods.
Employee performance is another way to measure team member mood. It is not foolproof, however, as employees sometimes perform well under difficult managers or situations because they simply do not want to lose their jobs. That said, you can see how happy a team is by seeing how productive they are, and how high quality their work is. This is a good litmus test in that teams under pressure make a lot of mistakes but happy ones don’t.
Measuring team happiness can come from the hiring perspective as well. A happy company attracts a lot of great hires, so seeing how many applications come in per job post is a good start. It is also important to look at how long it takes to fill positions, and how the rate at which job offers are accepted. Finally and perhaps most illuminating of all will be to see how many of your new employees stay at least 3 months for example but you can use any time measurement you see fits.
It seems strange to look within from without but it makes sense. Happy employees on happy teams mean that customers also stay happy. Measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty will give some insights into that. Moreover, if customers come back for repeat business because they like the product and the service — then you are doing something right.
Lastly, on this subject, your general brand perception, especially on HR and employee review sites is a key indicator of employee emotional health.
There is no formal way to measure your agile team happiness. Even when taking the metrics we discussed above into account. One way and this is the most common is to give employees a questionnaire from time to time. The questions are often similar but here are a few examples:
How happy are you in this company?
What part of your job is the best?
What part of your job is the worst?
How can your happiness increase?
What is great about a survey like this is that it shows the human side of application testing. Everyone wants to be asked if they are happy and how things are. By keeping the answers to your questions open-ended, you can help your app testing teams discover the source of their work woes and help eliminate them. Of course, these metrics are not only for QA and testing teams they can be used by anyone in an organization. Once asked it also provides a way for employees to take a moment to reflect on where they are in their career and how it’s going.
Nothing is perfect
There are some downsides to these metrics. Certainly, it seems overly subjective to ask a person how happy they are right now. I mean how can they even really answer that? The answers can vary wildly from person to person. Once you have introduced different interpretations into the data set, it’s harder to compare the responses.
The question is then, is this a bad thing? On one hand, it does not have to be. Let’s say that you use happiness metrics for retrospectives. In that case, team members can take time to clarify their responses. Meaning that the metric is used as a conversation starter.
On the other hand, if you want to look at hard data with averaged scores, and analyses you will need more clearly defined metrics that we also suggested above.
All or some?
It is not practical to measure all of the metrics we introduced above. The way that you decide to measure app testing team happiness will depend on several factors. To start with factoring in your industry, work situation and the type of team members you have will likely negate some of the factors above. What is important is that each organization finds the right set of data that works for them so they can track metrics and truly come to a meaningful understanding of their employee’s happiness.
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