Here at InRhythm, we’re passionate about Learning and Growth. Normally I don’t unnecessarily capitalize words, but that’s the subject of this post and I think it’s important to emphasize those words and what they mean. We define Learning and Growth as the process of becoming a better, more advanced person, capable of handling new and familiar situations more efficiently and effectively. So why are learning and growth so important to us? Because our people want it!
What’s the problem?
Across all industries, but especially in the consulting industry, employee retention is a big issue. Consulting has one of the highest turnover rates of all industries. Historically, a lot of consulting companies have employed a more dog-eat-dog mentality. “We’re in an industry that’s all about the bottom line, so why shouldn’t we treat our employees the same way?” – these companies employ a strategy along the lines of “grow or go,” treating employees like they must either climb the corporate ladder or get out because there’s no room for those who do not aspire to be the CEO. The problem here is that not everybody wants to be a CEO and that is okay.
Employee retention is almost exclusively a function of employee satisfaction. In all cases of turnover (voluntary or involuntary termination), it is due to poor employee satisfaction. Terminations are largely based on performance and there is an established correlation between employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Keeping employees happy and productive requires a large investment by employers, but those that have made the commitment find that the return on their investment far exceeds what they invested. Which brings us again to what satisfies employees? How do employers keep them happy?
Broken attempts to fix it…
A lot of people are aware of the correlation between employee satisfaction and employee retention. There are a multitude of issues that could lead to dissatisfaction such as poor management or no trust between coworkers, but I want to focus on learning and growth. I’ve seen many different employers try to make their employees happier but their efforts are usually a little misguided. They try things like snazzing up the office with new decor, mandatory team-building exercises, holiday parties, or just throwing money at the problem and offering people bonuses or incentives. The last one is actually the most problematic. Studies show that once people reach a “comfortable” income level (adjusted for your location) they’re much less concerned about exact dollar amounts and more about their lifestyle. A raise will simply not keep people around as much as getting their own office and/or fixing whatever cultural problem they’re suffering from.
How we address it
We try to give people exactly what they want. Across the board, most people look for jobs to be growth opportunities. They want their position to be something they learn-into and then later something that provides them more contextual and higher-level growth. Very few people, especially in this industry, want to just do what they already know how to do. They want to do something slightly different to keep their brain and their career growing.
“Our people are the most important part of our company. It’s not the budgets, it’s not the office and the toys, it’s not messaging or branding… It’s the people that we work with.”
We try to provide growth in several ways. First, we only take on projects working on modern, interesting tech; our people don’t want to work on legacy apps maintaining code written years ago, they want new stuff where they can stretch their creative muscles. Only taking on modern projects means potentially turning down lucrative projects, but we also have the peace-of-mind that the whole team isn’t going to quit in 2 weeks. We also host a TON of learning events. So far this year we’ve worked on meetups exploring best practices in VueJS, CSS, and UX Design. We get good attendance at these meetups and I think it’s because our people really yearn to learn. We’re also very into finding learning resources for our people. Personally, I make sure to share as much interesting stuff on Slack as I can so that the team can benefit from the same interesting bits that I benefit from. We have a huge bookshelf at the office with books on all sorts of topics: Philosophy, Management, Coding, Interviewing, Business Development…