This Is How Engineering Managers Can Assess the Diversity of Their Teams

In 2000, Joel Spolsky composed a blog entry entitled ‘The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code’, which was created as a set of straightforward ‘yes or no’ questions to evaluate the capabilities of software engineering teams. This test was designed to assist engineering managers in determining the quality of their teams’ work.

Despite the fact that The Joel Test has been in use for two decades, it is still utilised as a means of evaluating a software engineering team’s technical aptitude. However, William Hill, a senior software engineer at New Relic, has observed that the test does not factor in a team’s social culture and beliefs.

As a consequence of his efforts, William devised a collection of questions which engineering managers can utilise to evaluate the culture and inclusiveness of their engineering teams in the modern era.

And, of course, he appropriately titled it The Will Test.

The Will Test

The Will Test consists of nine questions designed to assess a company’s or team’s social culture and inclusion.

  1. Are there any engineering managers or minority leaders in the company?
  2. Is there access to services for preserving your mental health at work?
  3. Is there a formal Code of Conduct?
  4. Is the organisational structure well-defined?
  5. Is there a clear route to advancement?
  6. Does the firm support professional development?
  7. Does the organisation employ a variety of recruitment channels?
  8. Is a specialised DE&I staff in place?
  9. Is a formal internal membership program in place?
  • Is there a minority engineering manager or leader in the company?

In 2017, a research conducted by Reveal from The Centre for Investigative Reporting uncovered a stark underrepresentation of women and persons of colour in leadership roles. Specifically, their survey of 177 of the largest IT companies in the San Francisco Bay Area revealed that only 1.5 percent of management positions were held by Black men and only 0.7 percent were held by Black women. This disparity highlights the importance of minority representation in engineering and other leadership roles, as it serves to inspire other minority individuals that they too can reach such positions.
Without minorities in positions of authority, the organisation’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusiveness fall short.

  • Is there access to services for preserving your mental health at work?

Burnout is a serious problem in the present day business milieu, which is characterised by swiftness and intense pressure. The combination of this strain with the anxiety generated by the pandemic could have a substantial impact on engineering teams. Additionally, minorities tend to experience a variety of mental health issues, including imposter syndrome and microaggressions. As such, engineering managers should strive to provide their teams with access to suitable mental health facilities so that they may cope with these issues.

  • Is there a formal Code of Conduct?

In today’s workplace, bullying and harassment may take many forms.
Engineering managers must ensure that their most accomplished engineers are not taking advantage of their prestige and mistreating their colleagues. If these engineers are emphasising their own successes at the expense of their teammates, this should be considered a potential red flag.

Employees who engage in culturally inappropriate, sexually provocative, or disrespectful behaviour without the fear of any consequences is an indication of a serious problem. It is essential, irrespective of the size of the organisation, to have a clearly articulated Code of Conduct that outlines the accepted standards of professional behaviour.
To promote the team’s culture of inclusion, William advises creating a Code of Conduct similar to that used by Linux kernel developers.

  • Is the organisational structure well-defined?

Although having an organisational structure that is flat in nature is not necessarily a bad thing, some of the most renowned organisations such as Buffer, Github, and Medium have tried implementing this type of structure, only to eventually opt out of it.
It is difficult to establish control without a well-structured hierarchical system. Engineers in the minority must be aware of the various levels of the organisation in order to effectively carry out tasks and operations. A flat organisational structure introduces uncertainty, thus allowing the minority to question the transparency of the decision-making process.

  • Is there a clear route to advancement?

It is important to establish a clear pathway for employees to progress in their careers. Having a well-defined organisational structure allows engineers to have an understanding of what they need to do in order to be promoted. It is essential to consider how promotions are handled, as this can have a significant impact on the culture of the organisation.
By establishing a well-defined procedure for promotions that outlines the expectations for success, minorities can more easily demonstrate their qualifications and merits when it comes time for their evaluation.

  • Does the firm support professional development?

It is essential not only to identify and recruit a diverse range of talent, but also to retain them. Regrettably, minority engineers often face an unfair disadvantage when it comes to navigating the intricacies of office politics.
Engineers are more likely to remain with a business if they believe the employer cares about their personal and professional development.

  • Does the company employ a variety of recruitment channels?

When considering the recruitment of highly skilled engineers, it is important to be aware of the different approaches available. Opting for institutions with a strong academic and social reputation is one option; however, other avenues exist. For instance, automated platforms like Works can be used to recruit engineers from marginalised backgrounds. Additionally, tech conferences such as NSBE, Afrotech, Grace Hopper, and Tapia, which are held annually, provide a great opportunity to source talented engineers, as suggested by William.

  • Is a specialised DE&I team present?

It is essential for any organisation to have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team in order to ensure the company is promoting and fostering an inclusive and equitable environment. In the event that such a team is not in place, it is usually the responsibility of minority engineers within the organisation to lead and advocate for diversity and inclusiveness.
Despite not being part of their job duties and not being evaluated on their performance of this new duty, this additional task contributes to an unequal workplace environment. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed in order to ensure that all employees are being treated fairly and equally.

  • Is a formal internal membership program in place?

According to Heidrick & Struggles research, 30% of women and 32% of minorities regarded their mentoring connection to be highly essential.
Our organisation is committed to addressing the challenges faced by diverse groups by implementing a diversity-focused internal mentoring program. This program is designed to give everyone equitable opportunities to further their development and progress.

The importance of including individuals of all ages, colours, genders, and disabilities cannot be understated in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. As such, engineering managers may find it challenging to measure the success of an inclusion or diversity program. The Will Test offers an effective approach to gain an in-depth understanding of the current state of diversity in a given organisation, with the ability to customise the test to focus on any underrepresented groups.

The ultimate goal of our organisation should be to create an environment that is inclusive of all engineers, regardless of their race, gender, or any other factors. We must strive to provide a space that allows every engineer to feel accepted and reach their full potential.

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