Employees Are the Most Important Part of Your Business
Everyone agrees that employees obviously play a fundamental role in any business. The key here is that they play the most important part of the business. How you treat them and who they are will make or break whatever you’re doing.
I’ve worked in big, faceless companies, as a freelancer, and now I run multiple businesses with a team. The people you’re working with in each of these made a huge difference on my experience and whatever mutual goals we had.
Faceless company XYZ Corp. treats all of its employees the same by law or policy or bureaucracy…or some mystical reason beyond me. Typically, you have a know-nothing manager who directs the mannequin-esque HR employees to conduct seminars by other know-nothing managers or sometimes contracted instructors from the local community college. The topics range from such exciting topics as ‘Faster Keyboard Typing Strategies’ to the even more thrilling ‘Excel Pivot Tables II’.
There’s nothing wrong with having some standard policies (I guess), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with providing learning opportunities for your employees. But, if this is how you’re doing it, then you’re doing it wrong.
1) You’re not putting much effort into it, so what exactly do you expect to get out of it?
2) ‘HR professionals’ are an antiquated idea for the intellectually lazy. Being told what to learn by people who took an easy major in college is hardly the way to build a stimulating foundation for anyone.
3) Your people will hate you and leave. I did.
As a freelancer, I didn’t have a team so I was employee #1. I had to absorb so much more information across a wider scope and deeper scale than I ever had. There was so much to know. And my clients wanted answers to questions I hadn’t ever thought of. I failed sometimes. I succeeded sometimes. The only times I succeeded though were when I finally figured out a new modeling technique or way to build a program that did what I wanted in less time.
Now, I have my own team and we’re growing. I even teach technical courses, we’re building a better university, and we run the largest developer meetup in the Philippines. We take on projects from clients that have no clear answer or direction to solving. We have our own projects that are even more nebulous. All of this requires constant learning. In between projects, everyone takes a few days to learn and practice something they wish they had time to for the latest (or upcoming) project, we push pair programming, I give classes on all kinds of topics, and everyone gets free access to any of our night classes. If they want me to teach a new, longer subject, we schedule a new night class, and I get our class students to essentially pay me to teach or work with my own employees.
I also don’t hold back. I gain nothing from being a know-it-all, in fact, there’s more than a lot I still don’t know. And that’s precisely why I push everyone on the team to not just be ‘good’ but be good enough to work at Google, NASA, Baidu or wherever so they can teach me and everyone else what they know. I push them to give talks at our meetups or demo a project in some other public forum. This has the added benefit of boosting their esteem, confidence, and Does this carry a risk of them actually one day going to work for one of those companies? Ya it does. So our team will have people with the same skills as those companies? Great. And if they do leave to work somewhere else? That’s a pretty good incentive to choose us when you’re looking for a new job, too.
Great teams make great products make great businesses.