Growth is essential for any individual, and since companies are a union of individuals, growth becomes essential for the existence of a company as well. Without growth, there is stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence, and pestilence is followed by death. Ok, that was dramatic on purpose, but I want to emphasize the importance of growth.
After taking the feedback of a lot of people surrounding us (team members, friends, mentors), reading a few books on the subject and experiencing the pain of stagnation on my own shoulders, I decided to make growth a priority and make our company a place that we all together thrive to grow.
The journey was not all roses, we had a few set-backs:
- We lost great team members. People left because we weren't providing a clear growth strategy.
- We lost clients. Unmotivated and unhappy employees will result in unhappy clients. Unhappy clients leave.
- I lost purpose. Not having a clear sight of where we were going, how we were growing demotivated myself as well.
Although those events were hard, we got a very good lesson. The lesson is that if we want to be successful in life, growth is one of the most important things to consider and care about. We need to empower growth.
That lesson translated into a few action items that changed how we run Softup. Here is what we did:
Step 1: Define a career path (very obvious step)
We had to answer a few but very important questions that our employees had:
- What will I be doing in the next 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or even 5 years?
- How can I grow into the next position?
- What are the expectations for every position?
- How much money will I be making on every position?
Turns out the career path is not a very difficult problem to tackle. Answer a few questions, build a plan, present and execute it.
As a business owner, it might come up with a cost of re-organizing your existing staff to fit in the new brackets. Means that you would need to jump salaries for re-organization reasons only. But that cost is worth paying!
We did the following:
- We defined the following positions: Software Developer (Junior), Software Developer L1, Software Developer L2, Software Consultant, Senior Software Consultant, Manager and Senior Manager.
- We defined the responsibilities and expectations for every position. An example below:
- We defined the total compensation for every position. The total compensation consists of base salary + bonus. Being transparent is key. We saw that the level of clarity was appreciated by team members of different levels.
- We decided to do performance reviews every 6 months. The challenge here is how to make those performance reviews as fair as possible. We'll talk about it in the next steps.
- We decided to introduce a mentorship program that will support every employee in their career. Every quarter, every employee will have a set of objectives and key results that would be measured. An example of an objective & key results would be: Objective is to become better at automated testing and key results would be two: 1) Attend a workshop for writing unit & integration tests by an industry expert and 2) Implement tests in your existing client project.
Step 2: Introduce a mentorship program
While building the career path and our team was getting bigger, we encountered a few problems:
- We have company goals and there are also individual goals. How can we align individual goals with company goals?
Example: Employee X has been working as a frontend engineer for the last 2 years, but has a growing interest in cloud technologies. How can we support Employee X to advance more in the field of cloud technologies?
- We saw a number of individual issues not being tackled fast enough. How could we find out faster about issues and resolve them?
Example: Employee Y is working hard on a project but the client is still very demanding. How can we support Employee Y to handle the client relation better, without getting burned out?
It turns out the solution would be to have a mentorship program so we can support each other, align on our goals and fix problems before it is too late.
The mentorship program consists of "mentors" and "mentees". Every employee at Softup Technologies has a mentor from the first day, till the last day with us.
A mentor is:
- Someone that will define together with the employee quarterly objectives.
- Someone that will guide through all uncertainties, problems and difficult situations.
- Someone that will make sure you are guided towards the right way.
Have to admit, having a mentorship program has been one of the best decisions that has helped our team members grow, become better and resolve issues more efficiently.
Step 3: 360 feedback & performance reviews
Initially, all the career decisions were being done by me. That worked out well in the first years, when the team was small and I had visibility on each employee. But when the team grew, I ended up in a situation where I was responsible for making a career decision without all the required visibility on the performance. Unfortunately, this leads to imperfect decision making.
To improve it, we made a few decisions:
- Move the decision making process to a more adequate person. In our setup, a mentor would be better equipped to make the decision, since it is closer to the mentee than other employees (including myself).
- Introduce 360 feedback cycles every 6 months to get a better insight into someone's performance.
The process looks the following:
- Every 6 months, every mentor organizes performance review sessions for all their mentees.
- Every mentee is asked to get feedback from 3 - 5 colleagues and be provided to the mentor. The mentor also asks the client for feedback.
- The feedback is reviewed, discussed and action items are listed.
- A manager (myself, Daniel) and the mentor make the decision together if the mentee can jump into the new position, or requires a bit more time. If the latter is true, we provide a detailed plan on what needs to be improved or changed.
The entire process is transparent and based on open communication between all parties. This has allowed us to improve the quality of our decisions.
We've received positive feedback when we introduced all the above internally, and we would continue investing more in this direction. We've seen the positive effect in motivation, happiness and improved ENPS score (Employee Net Promoter Score - is a way of measuring how your employees feel about your company).
We have also seen a few things that needs improvements, such as:
- Better processes to organize reviews, notes, visibility etc. Now there is still a manual process to organize it, and we are evaluating different tools to automate. We don't want to delay review sessions by 1 month, caused by a calendar invite calculation error..
- Improve communication and alignment on company objectives. Everyone needs to clearly understand what we want to achieve, how we want to achieve results and why we have the objectives.
- Regular training on specific topics.
- Myself and Daniel (co-founder) are still involved in career position jump sign off process. Our goal is to equip all the mentors with the necessary information to make the best decisions.
I'll close this post with a quote from Ronald Reagan:
There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.
If growing has been a problem for you, we would like to hear more about your challenges.
Also, we are hiring :) Check out our open positions at https://jobs.softup.co or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to kick off the conversation.