10 Dec 2018

How to build a culture of personal growth in a tech company (and turn it into a win-win situation)

Personal growth cultures in tech companies are a topic trendy enough that just about every software house is doing something in this area. However, as is usually the case, only a handful of them turn these efforts into something useful – something that actually makes employees better and keeps them happy, improving employee turnover and overall company performance in the process. Is there a proven path to achieve this? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are a few things one should definitely keep in mind.

Did you know that employee turnover in a company with a well-developed culture is statistically much lower than in one that lacks in this area? Research by Columbia University estimates this figure to be 13.9 percent for the former and 48.4 percent for the latter[1] And personal growth is one of the most important aspects of company culture – especially in a tech company, where requirements and approaches evolve at a staggering pace and the demanding nature of the profession calls for an ambitious and motivated team.

At Software Mind, we believe that we have managed to turn the culture of personal growth into much more than just a box on a checklist. How did we do that?

Start with hiring the right people

Rather than lighting a flame, it’s much more efficient to keep an existing one burning. This is why the process of hiring the right people is so important. It isn’t just about sheer technical prowess, but about certain qualities that show that the candidate is willing to learn, admit to mistakes and work efficiently in a team. Unfortunately, finding such people is not that easy. After all, everyone likes to think of themselves in this way. The answer to this problem doesn’t change – you still need the right people in the form of human resource specialists with great people skills who can determine which candidates make the best character fit for your organization.

Assign projects with personal growth in mind

The difference between personal growth activities and the culture of personal growth is that the latter should be present at each and every step of the employee’s interaction with their company, including during the actual work. To that end, make sure that your developers are given tasks that reflect their interests and plans for personal growth and help them steer clear of routine activities that lead to job burnout. Also, be sure to make good use of breaks between projects. This is a great moment for an employee to perfect their workflow and express their feelings about how and where things are going for them.

Nurture an environment in which excellence and failure are not enemies

A great team is one made of exceptional individuals that, despite their personal differences, ambitions and skills, still understand the need to work together and share knowledge. It’s as much about sharing what you know as it is about sharing what you don’t know. Regardless of how much one knows, everyone is still human. It is a human thing to fail, make mistakes and learn from them. The comfort of knowing that honest mistakes will not define you in the eyes of the employer and other employees and requests for help will be seen as a step in your personal growth means everything. It is only in a place like this where employees can flourish in the long-term and tie their future to the company.

Craft your offer of personal growth activities, listen and iterate

Now that this is taken care of, you might start thinking about crafting your choice of personal growth activities – the icing on the cake that is personal growth culture.

At Software Mind, our wide array of activities include:

• Dedicated training time of 80 hours a year for the developer to use as they please.
• Code reviews that go way beyond just checking code quality, but rather aim to engage the developer into a creative discussion about how they can get better.
• Various educational activities, including hackathons and personal growth consultancy.
• Regular individual career guidance meetings.
• Knowledge exchange in the form of meetings where everyone can be a teacher and student, not limited to developers.

Whatever activities you choose, be sure to monitor their efficiency and the attitude of your employees towards them. If some of them do not resonate well with your team, change them and monitor again. It’s just another project so iterate, iterate, iterate.

Add a unique touch

A proper personal growth culture cannot really be called one without something that is unique only to your organization. Make sure that your brand reflects values that help foster a healthy culture of personal growth – one that rewards excellence in a way that is positive, healing and constructive for each individual that keeps your organization going and is easy to understand and distinguish for new prospects and clients as well. There is no one way to do it. It’s up to you to find that special something.

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General Manager
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Business Development Manager
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