Early this year, in an attempt to shape and define our company culture, my co-founder John and I came up with a set of guiding principles for the company.
We decided we want our team to have the heart to serve, to communicate well, to constantly adapt to change and to make each other better.
We presented to the team then asked them to rate each of the principles in order of importance to them personally. The clear winner was the principle to constantly adapt and learn.
Most of them would go a step further and say it’s the main reason they choose to work here. They love the fact that each and everyday we are improving our craft, learning new things and pushing the edge.
And when I thought about it, it made sense because personally I would do the exact same thing. I would always prioritize learning and growing opportunities in all my endeavours.
I believe, deep down inside, each and everyone of us seeks progress and growth. It gives meaning to our lives.
Some may want to be rich not just for a wealthy status, rather the number on the bank statement represents some sort of growth and progress.
You can grow and progress in all sort of ways. You may aspire to be the top talent in your craft or the best parent in the world. There is virtually no limit on what you can grow better in.
Growing together as a team
Knowing this, if you want to attract talents to your company, you will have to convince them that they have a unique opportunity to grow and progress together as part of your team.
You have to sell and deliver on the promise that, this path will allow them to hone their skills and pursue their passion. They have to know they are not limited by their job title or description but only by their desire and drive to improve and grow.
Since we are neither Facebook nor Google, we can’t compete in terms of perks and compensation. We don’t provide free lunches or beautifully designed workspaces to work in.
But we don’t have to. Not everyone wants to work for tech giants. Some prefer to work for startups and smaller companies because they see a bigger opportunity to make a difference.
Personally, I’ve chosen to join companies and work with clients based on this criteria. I’ll ask questions like, what kind of learning opportunities do I have here? Can I grow and progress together with the team? These are very important questions to answer and when the answer is no, you know you will be looking elsewhere.
Keeping them around
If you are lucky enough to attract some of these talents to join your team, congratulations but the battle have only just begun. This is the part where you have to keep your promise. The promise that your company is this magical world where they can gain unique experience and level up.
One of the things we do is to dedicate an hour every Friday as Learn Hour. Everyone is encouraged to share what they have learned during the week. It could be anything like new design principles or some cool productivity hacks. This helps build a culture of learning and sharing within the team.
Another common approach in tech companies is to allow employees to experiment on their ideas for a portion of their work hours. Google have a 20% time policy where Google employees can work side projects. One of these projects became GMail.
We introduced a similar policy last year where we allow everyone to devote a portion of their time towards an idea or project they want to work on. However, we realized that when you have deadlines to meet and products to deliver, everyone naturally focused on daily work and put aside their projects.
This is a problem because we actually want our team to work on their projects and experiment with new ideas. We see this as one of the ways for the team to grow and innovate.
To fix this, we adopted some ideas from The 4 Disciplines of Execution. We made sure there is time dedicated and blocked out for these projects and experiments. For innovation to happen, you have to clear the schedule and focus fully on it. This can be either 1 day of the week or a few hours a day. During this time, we only work on our projects and ignore normal work.
The next step is to set weekly measurable goals for the side projects. This may seem a little odd but from our experience, this is actually what keeps it going. Starting something is always easy because of the initial excitement. To keep it going, we need some sort of direction and progress. Setting up weekly goals allows us to see progress of our work and plan ahead.
Last piece of the puzzle is to introduce accountability into the mix. You can clear my schedule and make me commit to weekly goals but to make sure I actually do it, you have to hold me accountable.
We do this by having a short weekly meeting time-boxed to 15 minutes where each of us update the status of our goals and set new ones. During this meeting, we don’t talk about normal work. It is dedicated to side projects and experiments only.
So far, it has worked pretty well for us and we will continue to improve and adapt our process to make sure all of us are growing and getting better day by day. We are hoping this will be our edge in retaining talents.
Of course, we understand that some may outgrow the opportunity here. They will move on to tackle bigger challenges. That’s fine. It is better to grow together for a brief moment than to stay stagnant together forever.
Personal Growth is the answer
The point I’m trying to make is this. I believe the best way to attract and retain talents is through personal growth. Companies that support the growth of their employees will be able to attract and keep the best talents.
Some may say they choose a company because they connect with the company’s mission. I would argue that the reason is because you are able to see a way for you to grow and contribute to that mission.
Your career is not simply a business transaction where you get paid for the value of your work. It is a path where you grow both personally and professionally as a person. Which company would you rather join? One that treats you like a cog in a machine or one that values you as a person and encourages you to grow?
P.S. If you believe in personal growth and think we can grow together as a team, drop us an email.
Photo credit: Ståle Grut