One Monday morning, when the software world is still struggling to wake up, a nerdy developer with a decade long successful career in a product development company shot an impromptu resignation mail to her HR expressing her wish to be relieved from her responsibilities ‘asap’. The reason she said – “she’s bored.” The HR Manager wondered if that is the actual complete reason, or is there more to it? What are the reasons behind her boredom? Complacence (Forced?), or just lack of thrill at work?
“It was adventurous then, but banal now” – she lamented. Ten years ago, when a product she built reached production with very few critical bugs and was live after more than a year, the development team celebrated with a lavish party and a great sigh of relief. The company and its customer were happy and so were the team. These days, she says, she hardly experiences such exhilarating moments, more often the products she develops reach the next phase, add a new feature, platformize, and don’t usually die.
The incremental product development leads to fewer issues and surprises. Usually, an MVP is released, and it is upgraded as frequently as possible. Sometimes the upgrades are scheduled every week or even twice a week. A product enters the next phase. But is not usually considered finished. It just has a new entry point. As we learnt to make product releases shorter and development continuous, and merged the development, testing, and production phases of a product, developers are relieved from strict deadlines, stupefying bugs and production issues. Yet, our developer doesn’t seem to enjoy these obviously positive changes.
Is she too used to stressful work that she can’t appreciate well-planned, smooth-running product development methods? Isn’t this mindful evolution of product development good for hardworkers like her? She needn’t face unexpected failures, unplanned workload, or delayed releases and enjoy a better work-life balance. But she seems to hate her own complacency and couldn’t find a way out of it. A bit of understanding and encouragement from the HR would’ve greatly helped. They should’ve had an Agile Outlook, encouraged Intrapreneurship, and fostered skills essential for innovation.
The elephant in the room is not a lack of advanced product development methods, but an old HR-mindset incompatible with that of hard and smart working nerds like her. Unless addressed such attitude damages the spirit of the entire company and is detrimental to innovation culture much needed in a fast changing digital world. In a product company where attrition must be maintained low this poses a greater threat. Here’s what the HR should do to minimize it.
- Build a culture of innovation. Innovation need not be always about a deliverable. It should be recognized and valued even when it is not part of any client deliverables. Many internal tools that could ease various processes were the result of such unplanned innovations. This culture further draws more interest and focus into work from employees.
- Have the courage to test new ideas. Ideas, whether they are about easing processes or about a client deliverable have the ability to spread beyond existing business models. A lot of new ideas and simpler business models have been found serendipitously, tested within a team, and presented to the world for the benefit of everyone in the software domain.
- Develop an Agile Outlook. Agile is not just a software development methodology, it is mindset that needs to be imbibed by everyone in the company, more so by the HR Department that has a huge impact on every employee.Agile is about listening from everyone, respecting people, their ideas, feelings, opinions, and channelling their energies to construct better policies, business models, processes, projects and products. Agile forces everyone to act thoughtfully instead of reacting instantly. It gives people their much-needed space and builds a culture of open-minded, liberal, non-hierarchical behaviour.
- Automate wherever required. Make sure that the ideas aim at automating boring, repetitive work that doesn’t require any brains. This is the kind of work, however essential it might be, feels herculean for anyone looking for challenging work.
- Value Growth Mindset. At the start of their career, what draws software engineers into work is the steep learning curve. Quite unsurprisingly as they gain more experience, their workload increases, and their learning curve is less tangential. However, with continuous innovation being the norm, any sane product development company should ensure that their developers learn and un-learn, re-skill and upskill regularly.
- Encourage Intrapreneurship. In any group of software employees there will be a few with good entrepreneurial qualities. Instead of zoning them as unreliable and perceiving them as a threat their skills can be channelled to brainstorm new ideas, models, and solutions. This in fact would bind such people to the company and controls attrition.
- Nurture skills essential for innovation. Various skills like resilience, creativity, conviction are essential for any company. People may or may not be born with these skills, but they can be definitely learnt from experiences – others or their own. When employees exhibit such skills, they need to be complimented. Many such skills turn everyday coffee-machine-chats into unofficial brainstorming sessions. Work becomes fun and spreads innovation culture all around the company.
At coMakeIT, over the years, we’ve kept our attrition level much below the industry average. In fact many of our customers are surprised to find it lower than in their firms. We believe, our success is because of the commitment of our passionate employees and our promise to provide them respectful and rewarding working conditions. It is not impossible for any other company to achieve that. We’ve discussed some steps every HR should follow to help build successful businesses. Do you have anymore ideas? Do let us know.