By Annette Jensen, Software Development Manager at Widen Enterprises
I recently took a job at Widen Enterprises as the Software Development Manager. Widen is positioned as a marketing technology company and creates digital asset management software solutions. I looked quite awhile before finding the right fit. Here is an organization that has been able to keep software developers much longer than the industry average. Yes, they have gone through transformation pains but they continue to move forward and improve the culture and working environment for their employees. Because they understand developers work differently than the 9-5 employee, they offer flexibility, developers are encouraged to take trainings or conferences, they schedule hacker days, set aside time for them to attend ongoing geek-out sessions, and have on-going mentoring and collaboration sessions where developers are learning from each other on a daily basis.
During my first month at Widen, I attended a Harvard Business Review Webinar “The Internet of Things,” presented by Harvard Business School professors Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani, during which a remark was made that companies put value in interacting with their customers and investing in products but undervalue their resources. This was not the focus of the webinar but I picked up on the statement because it has been something I have been mulling over for several years. It was a statement that I could relate to and have found to be different at Widen. Companies often invest in technology upgrades such as security, hardware and software but do not include upgrading their people resources. For many businesses, their largest operational budget line item is salaries. Does adding more $$ to that line item seems overwhelming or do they just forget that people are resources too?
You have often heard or read articles on “why would I put all that money into training when they will turn around and leave.” To me that way of thinking is the same analogy as “let’s not talk to our kids about drugs because then they will want to use them.” If the culture is right, then investing in your staff would only add strength to that culture, to your customer service, to your products, and to your organization. I see high amount of energy from the Widen developers as they develop new skills and work together to do greater good as a team. They gather weekly to talk about a new technology, mentor each other, and train in order to improve their skills.
There is currently a job-jumping situation in the IT Industry which has increased in recent years. I had one HR/Job Coach tell me that it is common for people in IT to change jobs every couple of years. It is about what you produce and then you move on to do more challenging work. I was told that you will look stagnant if you don’t move on. What if our employees didn’t become stagnant, they produced, and stayed at your organization?
Will people leave companies that provide them with training that grows the individual and adds value to the company? Are there just as many people that leave an organization because they don’t get support for training? I know people who left jobs because of a lack of support for training, me included. Do more people leave companies because they don’t get trained as compared to those that do? Is that a question we should even consider or address but instead focus on how to retain these talented developers? This is a question we ask at Widen every time we invest in training our employees and should be considered in every environment.
At Widen, our culture supports employee improvement which makes the employee feel valued. From the top-down, the workforce understands how investing in employees will give return to the company. Organizations not supporting employee improvement only reinforce the non-valued feelings of their employees. At that point, they are really telling employees that they are not worth the investment and are not valued. Employees know the investment will add value to the company. Have we truly observed and asked why developers are not satisfied, besides long hours and pay? Companies that cannot recognize this culture and know how to proactively train and mentor will not be able to satisfy developers on any level, much less keep them at their organization.
Companies often experiment on new products and new ideas. One of those new ideas should be “let’s invest in our developers and see how this investment could transform our company.” As we grow our organizations, we need to put our thoughts and actions to truly valuing our resources. Giving developers the culture to keep up with technology prevents burnout and employees stay engaged which keeps them from looking for other opportunities.
I was surprised at the longevity of the 16 developers at Widen. Yes, there are newer less-than-2-year developers but many more with 5+ years of Widen experience and service. Talk about value for Widen! This is a no-brainer. Widen is investing in those developers, in quality assurance testers, in product managers, customer service representatives, marketing and advisors. Here is a company that has created a very vibrant culture, learning environment, and a place where people stay and are happy! Widen invest in our employees, therefore we have amazing employee retention which keeps our business knowledge intact and builds better software for our customers.