Even though we like to brag about all the good that we do and even though we love sharing our knowledge, not everything is as perfect as it seems. We are faced with numerous problems, which we have to find solutions to – on a daily basis.
I’m convinced that we’re not the only ones so I believe this article will also be of interest to you; perhaps you’ll realize you’re facing the same problem and this will be the place where you find the solution to it. If you get any other solutions while reading the article, we will be delighted if you share it with us in the comments below.
In any case, this article is also written with the intention that we – and you – learn something from it.
At the beginning, when the company is still young and small, we sometimes take any project that comes our way – just so we have work! This way, we keep spinning in an enchanted circle where we only work in the company and not on the company and on improving things in the long run. Because we’re not working on our added value, we of course fall behind the competition.
You’d think that with the company’s growth this problem goes away, but it doesn’t. Once the company expands, we’re faced with a new problem: the team or individuals (especially the ones with the most knowledge and motivation) unintentionally take on too much work, because they don’t know how to say no or they simply find their work to be too interesting and therefore wish to learn new things. These are of course the individuals whom we, the superiors, entrust with the toughest jobs, since they are our best warriors and at times the only ones who know how to solve certain problems.
This way, the work accumulates before we’re even aware of it. Consequently, the best workers may leave the company – which is completely logical.
Finding balance between an overload and the right amount of work to survive is therefore not an easy task. We can of course reject a lot of projects due to our overload but at the same time we need to make sure that we can pay all 35 employees. One of the most important questions in our company has become: When is it OK to reject projects?
What can we do to relieve our employees?
Communication, communication, communication. Here, team leads play the most important part by taking care of the work flow in their team. Communication is of course a two-way street; the employees must also speak up about any potential weaknesses.
Through conversation we can try and find a solution and, in the worst case, at least show the employees that we care and that we respect their work. I’m still a firm believer that good things come to those who do good; I’m sure that a bad employer gets a lot of resignations. However, an employer who works for the good of their team will in return get employees who will return the favor with perseverance and commitment.
Finding additional workforce. Employing new people is a long-term solution that usually isn’t sufficient by itself. It is vital that (in the majority of cases) we still opt for it, because we can avoid repeating the problem of a workload in the future.
Analysis. An extremely important part. Once we get burned, we have to take a step back and learn from the situation. Was our price too low? Did we wish to do the majority of the work ourselves? Were the client’s wishes not in line with our work? These can be useful pieces of information for the future.
As little superstars as possible. A while ago, Tilen from DeweSoft gave us a very useful advice: the company should have as little superstars as possible. This means we need the lowest possible number of people who are the only ones with a certain skill or knowledge.
Recruitment and retention of the staff
Let’s be honest: the company greatly depends on the staff. Perhaps this isn’t as prominent with a smaller team, but with the bigger ones it becomes one of the key factors of success. A good and competent employee is desired by other companies as well or they carry within them an entrepreneurial spark and wish to have their own company.
An additional problem of companies such as ours is the fact that we cannot compete with other high-tech companies and global players when it comes to our salaries. This kind of staff is therefore hard to keep and even harder to recruit.
Optiweb is currently facing quite a few problems with recruiting technically experienced staff, since we dedicated ourselves too much on portraying our culture and not enough on presenting the technical challenges. Some may therefore believe that we don’t have a lot of technical challenges that would make the work interesting – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What to do to recruit new colleagues?
Adjusting the communication. The communication (especially the ones on the social media) should be changed so the technical and managerial staff will see in us a challenge and a possibility of personal growth.
Organizing technically educational events. Every team holds infinite knowledge that could be passed on at technical events – this is a great opportunity to get to meet new staff and potential new clients.
Networking. With a more intensive networking we can spread awareness about who we are and how we work, which increases the possibility of someone recognizing us as an appropriate employer.
Training our staff. This is currently one of our most common practices, which should also continue in the future. We should devote ourselves to a systemized process of practices, which would help us get only the best staff.
What to do to keep our staff?
Communication. Again, we place it in the first position, since we can’t do without it. Even though we still have a lot of work ahead of us, we have the following goal: if an employee is currently dissatisfied with their position, they talk it out with us before deciding to quit. Thinking about quitting shouldn’t be an internal reflection of their option but an honest discussion with the team lead. I truly believe that in the majority of cases everything can be solved – or we can at least try to solve it.
Promotion (position or knowledge). We should never forget about the progress of our employees. Lately, we have forgotten a bit about the progress of those who are with us the longest. Al of a sudden, they are the ones to whom other employees turn for advice, while they cannot turn to anyone since no one in their team knows as much as them. It is therefore important that each employee has a chance to develop, despite being the most experienced in the company – or especially because of that. We are currently developing KPIs but we also wish to develop a system where every employee is acquainted with their possibility for promotion – horizontally and vertically.
Raising the hourly wages. Despite it being an unpleasant business, this becomes necessary at one point. By paying quality employees more, we automatically raise our chances of them staying in the company. Consequently, we can offer more to our clients by having staff with additional experiences and expertise.
Various developmental and other activities.Coffee with the CEO and Wazzup meetings are only two of numerous examples. The list of ideas of how to keep our good employees is a long one and we already offer some of the items on the list (from bonuses and transparent communication do various developmental activities). Here, the greatest challenge is of course finding the right balance – the bonuses need to be appealing to all employees and must remain a strong motivator.
The symptom of rotten apples
When a team grows so quickly (this year we have grown for one third in comparison with last year), we just as quickly find “rotten apples”, which are hard to notice. A rotten apple can be someone who gets away on the merits of other effective and hard-working employees or a new employee who doesn’t get enough attention and feedback that would help them evolve.
It’s therefore not necessary that they’re doing it on purpose – perhaps they’re not even aware they’re doing something wrong – but their bad work is often noticed by other people, which negatively affects their motivation. Here, the number of logged hours is no indicator of the executed work; it’s more important that the employee is effective.
What to do?
Reporting and analyzing: We have to come up with precise automated reports, which will help us recognize the company’s shortcomings in any given moment.
Clear and measurable KPIs: We have to perfect the KPIs, which were implemented this year. KPIs must differ based on the time someone has spent in the company; at the beginning, we need weekly and not merely monthly KPIs – maybe even daily ones.
Strong relationships and communication between management, team leads and other employees: The C level has to regularly communicate with the team lead about how the individuals are performing and where they see potential problems, while the team leads have to invest the majority of time in communicating with the team members.
Clear results: We must all focus on whether the results are effective and not only on how much time we spend at work.
Teams don’t work as a whole
Optiweb is divided into separate team, which brings its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage lies in the fact that every employee is more focused on their field, while the disadvantage is the fact that employees aren’t that connected. Even though it’s important for individual teams to cooperate well, we are still one big community that needs to function; we can only be truly successful as a whole.
Sadly, we’ll always come across a team that works slightly better or worse than the other; sometimes merely because the nature of work is different, which is of course not the fault of the employees. But, sometimes, this still leads to bad temper: “See, team B is attending a more interesting conference abroad than us even though they bring in less money and don’t work as hard as we do.”
On one hand, rivalry is acceptable – maybe even preferred – but on the other it’s much more important that teams know how to cooperate with one another; especially in our field where cooperation among teams is of vital importance.
How to stay connected?
Education. Established teams was something new for all of us – the team leads found themselves in a new role, the dynamic between co-workers changed and we got a new “level” in the company. Whenever something new happens in the company, it’s important that employees get the information and the knowledge that they need in order to do their job well. Here, we should have stressed the role of team leads more and offer them the necessary tools and skills for a successful leadership.
Respect. More people means different characters; different opinions and different skills. This is what enriches the company and adds value to it, but at the same time it increases the chances for disagreements. There’s of course nothing wrong with that – as long as we have mutual respect. Here, it’s again important to communicate and be honest with one another. We can only grow as people if we honestly tell one another what’s bothering us.
Here, we still have room for improvement; in being more direct when communicating what’s bothering us – and not finding it out through a third person. This can only make the matters worse, because it may sound a lot worse than it was originally meant.
Clearly defined rules. In Optiweb, we’re sometimes a bit “lost” when it comes to deciding whether we should be a more relaxed or rigid organization. On one hand, we’re young and enthusiastic, so we wish to be an advanced and company with an advanced culture. On the other hand, too much freedom could result in people not doing their best. Rules should therefore be clearly defined; everyone needs to know the boundaries of what is allowed and what not, but within those boundaries they have all the freedom they desire. The task of clearly defining and strategically communicating the rules belongs to team leads and other lead positions.
Changing positions. Since, at the moment, our teams are divided into separate offices, we will try mixing people up every once in a while – of course not too many people at once. An employee will therefore switch places with someone from another office for a week, which will definitely turn out to be interesting and educational. We’ll keep you posted about the results ;)
Teambuilding of team leads. We’re back to team leads. If they cooperate well, cooperation of individual members from different teams is more than guaranteed.
That’s right: the first half of this year was not profitable for us; we’re at a positive zero. But how is that possible when we have more employees and bigger clients? The reason is perfectly simple: growth brings greater expenses.
The number of people who take care of the operation of the company rises (CEO, CHO, head of office, external advisers, partly team leads, etc.) – this means they don’t work directly for the clients and are, consequently, not bringing in any profit.
The salaries also get higher because people deserve so, while, at the same time, we get a new employee almost every month, who needs to be trained – of course the new employees aren’t profitable for at least a couple of months. Besides everything written, we also make sure to send our team members to as many conferences as possible and to provide them with all the necessary tools and necessities they need.
What to do?
“Simple”: we need to take care of the bullet points we mentioned above. It won’t be easy nor will it be fast, since we have quite a lot of work to do but I’m certain that we’ll slowly start improving things and, month by month, also increase our added value.
Seeing how the media has lately featured our Chief Happiness Officer, I’d like to conclude with the fact that every individual has to take care of their own happiness. Our job is to help them get to that point, however, everyone makes their own luck.
Photographs: JS Oblikovanje
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Founder and CEO of Optiweb, where we help clients achieve a better online performance and greater sales. As an entrepreneur, I try to great emphasis to the general atmosphere of the company and the relationships between employees.