If you ask any successful company for the key to their success, or ask any employee why they are happy in a position, the answer is almost always “the people”. But what makes happy, productive people is usually fueled by a thriving company culture.
Company culture is not built with free lunches, ping pong tables, and bring-your-pet-to-work days. Only companies that develop more meaningful values soar ahead of the rest.
Technology companies and particularly those in the cloud space have a unique challenge in fostering a healthy culture. The market is evolving at a dizzying pace and the competition to source qualified employees is fierce. The threat of continual staff turnover can disrupt team harmony, delay DevOps transformation efforts, and reduce client satisfaction. How do companies maintain DevOps projects by finding the right staff and vendors that build and align with company culture?
Here are a few things to watch out for when building company culture or sourcing your next partner:
The connection between a company’s willingness to experiment with new ideas and employee satisfaction is well known. Company cultures that encourage experimentation, have early access to new feature or product releases, carve out time for their teams to understand, test, and tinker with them allow engineers to be innovative, elevate the team around them, and service clients more effectively.
However, how the company communicates these experiments and centralizes learnings across teams it is often undervalued. “Innovation sharing” is especially critical in cloud migration projects, where different lines of business are using the cloud in different ways; it is essential that one team’s core learning becomes another team’s playbook.
Companies that document innovation learn smarter. To implement this in your own team, start small by creating a central Wiki that is controlled and regularly audited by the senior-most engineers. Schedule monthly show-and-tells for technical teams; at Logicworks, we schedule ours on Fridays and make them BYOB. For sophisticated cloud teams, create a central GitHub that houses assets like cloud templates and reusable scripts, which can be checked out and modified by individual teams. As senior engineers review suggested modifications, they are able to standardize best practices and build key learnings into templates that everyone can reuse.
Everyone Wins When Everyone Wins
Good organizations recognize the accomplishments of individual contributors. Great organizations celebrate in the shared responsibilities of the collective team’s achievements. Every company has superstars, but few are successful without those superstars rolling up their sleeves to collaborate and provide mentorship. This practice helps companies disprove the old adage “you are only as weak as your weakest link” by creating an environment where everyone is empowered to build on the strengths of others.
Migrating and maintaining cloud resources is new and challenging for every team. Even the most advanced engineers are learning new skills and making mistakes. In a cloud environment where mistakes are usually less costly and errors can be fixed rapidly, it is more important that the team grow stronger than that everything run perfectly. This “blameless” culture is what fosters experimentation and ultimately yields to higher trust between development and systems teams, improving time-to-market and product quality.
Transparency Yields Better Vision
Companies that have established transparency as a foundational element of their culture inspire a more honest workplace, allowing its employees the benefit of understanding career paths and company direction. Transparency stimulates a shared sense of ownership in the company’s success. But what does transparency actually look like, and how do executives maintain a level of discretion while involving all team members?
Simplicity works best here. Hold staff meetings that highlight the performance of teams and discuss project updates, goals, and metrics. Talk about who you are planning to hire and why. The CEO or CFO should discuss the financials of the company. This is a hard one for many companies, but an absolute game-changer in getting the entire staff aligned on revenue strategy.
If you are looking for a partner, this is equally true. There are many players that appear to look good on paper, but when you dive deeper are financially unstable, misrepresent services or experience, or lack vision. Companies that are forthcoming in showcasing their financial health, proven experience, and vision demonstrate a stronger commitment to current services as well as future growth.
Customers are Partners, Not Numbers on a Sales Report
Companies that respect their clients or customers cultivate more positive company cultures. This is not about building a better customer service department, but about the tone set by all managers towards customers and clients — especially if this is an IT project and customers are internal. How do engineers talk about its customers internally? Is it acceptable to ridicule “silly” customer or employee questions around the watercooler? A company that sees its clients as annoyances, mocks them, or sees them as a number fosters negativity and an overall unhappy workplace.
Cloud projects stretch IT departments and IT vendors thin. There is a lot to be done, and often not a lot of time to do it. But if IT thinks of itself up as beleaguered and overwhelmed, it begins to turn away meaningful interactions and criticize customers. Once this tone sets in, it can be difficult to leave behind.
Again, this starts with managers. What metrics are managers measuring? Is it as important to hit retention numbers as to hit sales numbers? How are positive client interactions or positive cross-departmental stories highlighted? Are customer-facing employees empowered to take extra time on a client? How many clients does each account manager or IT person support? Are deadlines determined without the involvement of IT, which causes bad feelings all around?
While this is difficult to measure in prospective vendors, it is crucial to get references, certifications, and first-hand meetings with non-sales staff up front. To handle the complexity of your projects, you want an IT partner you can trust and that has developed a positive internal culture that values your business.
Keeping employees and clients successful, engaged, and innovative is about investing in cultivating a culture that empowers staff, values innovation sharing, and continually challenges itself to evolve as a company. Although the principles outlined above may seem like common sense, surprisingly few companies actually embed them into their culture. The companies that do will reach and exceed their cloud goals.