2018 Andela Engineering Management Report

Today's Engineering Manager

We surveyed over 500 engineering leaders across the U.S. to find out how they build and manage high-performing engineering teams. Through questions about team distribution, remote work, tools, and performance management, we discovered the best practices shared by engineering managers at companies ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 employees.

It’s no surprise that recruiting and retaining talent is the top concern for most engineering managers, according to the 2018 Andela Engineering Management Report. But that’s hardly their only concern. They reported that their companies could better support them through communication, resources, and flexibility.

Luckily, remote work may be the key to solving many of these concerns. Managers who work regularly with distributed employees view remote work as key to improving productivity, communication and the overall success of their teams. Read on for more insights on workforce trends and best practices in engineering management from today’s tech leaders.

Remote Work Lives On

Remote work is becoming increasingly common every year, and this study confirms the trend. Some employers embrace it to offer additional flexibility to existing workers, while others leverage it to attract new pools of engineering talent.

A mere 14% of the managers surveyed reported that the entirety of their team works in the same location. 46% of respondents reported having some of their teams working remotely, while 40% said they rely on remote workers most or all of the time.

Managers at pro-remote companies found the distributed model beneficial in terms of collaboration, communication, and productivity. However, the one in six managers who had little experience with distributed teams proved to be far more skeptical. Half of them reported a negative impact on collaboration and relationship building, although it could be that this skepticism stems from lack of experience. Remote management is challenging in theory, but when done well, it can maximize productivity.

Managers who oversee a hybrid team – meaning that some engineers are co-located and others are remote – comprised the largest segment in this year’s study. This group found the overall impact of a distributed team to be positive, with 80% citing that remote work helped productivity and 62% reporting that it improved relationship building, collaboration, and communication.

Overall, how much of your team work remotely?

How does remote working impact your management experience as it relates to the following,  COLLABORATION

How does remote working impact your management experience as it relates to the following, PRODUCTIVITY


The Business Case For Overcommunication

Which best describes how often you have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports?

Which best describes how often you have performance reviews with your direct reports?

This year’s survey dug into the methods and tools that engineering managers use to communicate, collaborate, and track performance.

At a high level, the results showed that managers of distributed teams are better able to measure both productivity and business impact. This could be a direct result of the structure required to successfully run distributed teams. While developing a structure for performance management is generally accepted as a best practice, it’s especially necessary for managers with distributed teams.

According to the survey, managers of distributed teams are much more likely to hold daily or weekly stand-ups than their co-located peers. They are also more likely to have dedicated 1:1 meetings and a more formal performance review structure. This likely accounts for the improvement in productivity and collaboration cited by managers of fully distributed teams, as well as the 20% increase in perceived business impact and support from executive management.


Tools of the Trade

Andela’s survey asked several questions about the tools engineering teams use to facilitate collaboration. For most groups, email remains the most popular communication tool, with 74% of managers citing it as a key tool for keeping remote team members in the loop. However, among younger managers and those with distributed teams, only 33% reported e-mail to be the most essential tool.
As distributed teams become more prevalent, it’s possible that the industry will become less dependent on email and more reliant on collaboration tools like Slack, Asana, and Trello.

Which of the following is the most important tool used by your team to keep remote employees in the loop of new policies, rationale behind decisions, etc.?


The Case for Location Flexibility

16% of managers in distributed workforces said retaining talent is their top concern.

Engineering managers ranked the following as the most in-demand skill sets:

Remote companies are more likely to prioritize specific skills and experience when hiring. They are also better at career development for their employees: 59% of remote managers report that they have clear career paths for individuals on their teams, compared to only 22% of non-remote teams. Together, these practices help remote engineering managers with employee turnover -- they are half as worried about employee turnover than non-remote managers.

Nine out of ten respondents chose problem-solving and collaboration as the top traits to look for in hiring, regardless of the distribution of their team. Even when asked to pick the single most important characteristic, problem solving remained at the top of the list.

Managers of remote teams put a higher value on programming and documentation basics, such as testing and code review. Over 55% of remote managers said that specific experience was very important, while only 16% of co-located managers agreed. Managers of onsite teams were more likely to value culture fit and ambition.


A Cry for Support

Results vary on whether engineering managers feel supported by the executive team. In this survey, 55% of respondents believe that their company understands the value of their team. Less than half (44%) feel that the engineering team is seen as a strategic partner of the C-suite. Large and distributed team managers, however, do feel supported. 56% of distributed team managers strongly agree that they have the resources they need to succeed, while only 44% of non-distributed teams report the same.
These results, when combined with the findings from Stack Overflow, HackerRank and others that developers rank remote work as their top priority when evaluating jobs, indicate that the distributed model provides managers with a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting, retaining, and managing developers. With the right practices and systems in place, distributed teams benefit from higher employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and ultimately, a more productive workforce.

How could your company support your development as a manager better?


About the Andela Engineering Leadership Report

The 2018 Andela Engineering Leadership Report is an in-depth look at the views and behaviors of the people who manage teams of IT engineers in the United States. It is based on an extensive survey of 503 managers at U.S. companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, ranging in size from 100 to more than 10,000 employees. It was conducted online between October 15 and October 26, 2018, by Market Cube.
Nearly one in four (23%) of respondents hold the title of vice president or higher, while 27% are director level and 50% are managers or team leaders. By age, 58% of respondents were millennials, and 42% were older. By company size, 49% worked at companies between 100 and 999 employees and 51% worked at companies larger than that.