Marcin is looking around the room as people slowly come in and take their seats. No signs of nervousness registers on his face. He’s on friendly terms with everybody in the room. They are his workmates. Therefore, they are likely to make an appreciative audience. Today Marcin is giving a seminar on how to communicate and cooperate well in a team. An interesting topic indeed, as ‘Soft Skills’ are the thing at the moment. Marcin’s talk proves informative and engaging. What’s been said here is sure to spark off a number of discussions and contribute to better communication and harmony between co-workers. Marcin’s seminar is yet another example of how we attempt at fostering a culture of growth at SoftwarePlant.
We’ve come to see that through inviting people to come forward and share with others the ideas that really resonate with them, we can truly facilitate the process of learning and ongoing development for teams and individuals alike. We can also make the office a place of joyful expression for people. Today we are sharing the ideas we’ve employed to make work more purposeful and fulfilling. Join us for a brief walkthrough!
1. Create forums for knowledge-sharing and exchange of ideas
Creating opportunities for people to learn serves as an effective tool to infuse meaning into your daily work. For instance, some time ago we’ve implemented a Spotify’s idea of Technical Guilds. We now have six such self-governing associations (eg. Frontend, Operational Excellence, Project management) operating at SoftwarePlant. They have regular meetups to share ideas and develop competence. In short, they are a great example of culture of growth in action! We’ve also set up the SP University, which periodically teaches topics such as project management theories, lean and agile practices, business ideas and trends etc. From time to time, somebody from the team gives a presentation exploring the programming ins and outs. Łukasz’ recent succinct eyebrow-raiser “How to write class and method functions — SoftwarePlant’s experiment” serves as a splendid example.
People are much more than just their professional capacities, do allow people to go out of their job for inspiration! At SoftwarePlant we try to strike a happy balance between professional and personal development. Apart from discussing issues related to daily operations and processes, we encourage volunteers to give presentations, seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics. They range from general knowledge, through business-related issues, useful skills (e.g. public speaking) to communications and psychology of human behavior. Make sure no talent, energy, or initiative gets stifled or wasted! Instead, utilize the steam to benefit the team!
The obvious advantage of creating forums for passing on knowledge, skills, and insights is that the newly accrued competences can actually be put to work. But it also serves a number of other important purposes. Inviting people to contribute topics that really inspire them fosters employee autonomy and independence. It also helps meet the basic human need to be seen, respected, valued and appreciated. Additionally, co-workers who volunteer to speak on a given subject experience the positive impact they have on others. They enjoy a sense of appreciation from their peers. The result is a feeling of purpose and greater employee commitment, engagement, and responsibility. What’s more, the ‘snowball effect’ may happen. The great example once set can inspire even more initiative and enthusiasm within the team.
3. Retrospect to celebrate your victories and learn from your mistakes
Frequent review meetings, both team-specific and cross-departmental, are yet another platform for shared company experience. Retrospective meetings help break with everyday routine and bring in an element of variety into the daily grind. By doing so, they make work more enjoyable for everybody. But they also offer a moment to self-reflect on your accomplishments and challenges alike. Finally, they drive the message home that what we do — you and I — is actually a shared-effort! At SoftwarePlant we regularly meet for:
- Sum IT Up! meetings (short presentations on topics that relate to technologies used and work recently performed),
- Event Retros (to discuss experiences and lessons learned at the 20+ business events we participate in every year),
- PI Retrospectives (to discuss the ups and down of the previous PI and fully make sense of the impact of our incremental work).
4. Empower and engage people in decision-making processes
The simple truth is that the people are the company. The more engaged they become, the better for the organization. Apart from open discussions and employee surveys, we’ve put up an actual mailbox for criticisms, opinions, and ideas. A clear message that employee feedback is valued, appreciated, and acted upon.
Another example of a platform for employee engagement and exchange of views is the recent initiative by our Team UX. What we’ve dubbed as ‘UX Space’ is a simple board displayed in the passageway. It is there for all to see and share insights about our users. The board contains information on how they utilize our apps. It also has a space for ideas for product development, improvements, and new features. A simple concept which stimulates discussions that then translate into an enhanced experience for BigPicture customers. At a higher level, inviting your co-workers to share views lets them know you appreciate their input. Additionally, ‘Space UX’ proves to be a valuable exercise in changing the perspective and developing a deeper understanding of customer’s problems and needs. What better way to build genuine commitment and motivate people to design software with users in mind?
5. Bring in an element of fun
‘All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,’ as the proverb has it. Hence the obvious suggestion — go out and play! And take your team with you! Make after-work outings a regular thing at your company to bring in the spirit of camaraderie. This can help foster a positive work environment (various polls have revealed it to be one of the most important factors of job satisfaction). Getting along with co-employees can make people more engaged at work. And this, as many HR studies can attest, can lead to greater effectiveness and productivity.
Creating a professional environment where people can voice their opinions and experience a sense of actual growth may seem like a difficult task. Yet, building a culture of growth is well worth the effort! For it is exactly what it takes for genuine commitment to really happen. We believe all of the above ideas and measures can translate into a healthy work culture. It is a culture where individuals and teams can flourish. And where engagement, loyalty, and improved performance are… mere side effects.
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