Your #StartupCulture sucks.

And here are the solutions.

My first experience in the gaming industry was underwhelming. I was hired as a QA engineer. Sounds cool, right? In layman’s terms, that’s a game tester.

On the first day I was given a handful of PowerPoint documents and told to start working. My introduction and training, as far as management was concerned, was complete.

A few of the documents were examples of bug reports. If you’re new to the jargon, a bug is a problem within your software. The others were ‘how-to’ documents for accessing the company server.

You can see why this is underwhelming.

I had expected to get to know my coworkers, the company culture, and expectations for quality and workload. In an effort to not mess up, I logged every problem I saw, no matter how how small. I had no idea if the programmers knew about these problems or not. I had no idea how to have fun with the work and I had no idea to judge the severity of the problems myself. There was a lot of trial error. I probably angered a lot of the programmers with my flood of bug reports.

These problems were bigger than they appeared at the time. My productivity (effort + effectiveness) was diminished. My excitement for the role quickly faded. And my coworkers had a poor impression of me which took awhile to improve.

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This is too common in entry-level positions and can effect team morale, productivity, and in the long-term — project quality and deadlines. This can lead to larger company issues with revenue, user satisfaction, and stakeholder concerns.

The solutions

Proper training would involve your new employee shadowing another more experienced employee. If you have a small team, than the employee who works most closely with that role can guide your new recruit through the work process. Ask the shadowed employee to create some modular quizzes that newbie can take throughout the day. This will help the you understand the recruit’s and the trainer’s comprehension of the role, plus the retention and understanding of the recruit. The recruit will also find out where he or she is not understanding materials and allows time for questions.

These can be followed by informal meetings to introduce the recruit to coworkers where your new employee can ask questions and answer some as well. Don’t forget, work is a professional place, not a lonely place. So, put your new team member on the spot with an embarrassing questions. An example:

What was your most embarrassing work moment? What was the dumbest thing you have done at a grocery store?

These aren’t too personal but should help people feel more comfortable. Follow the meeting up with a group lunch or dinner and drinks.

Understanding workload and quality of work can be difficult if you don’t haveperformance tracking and metric-based goals for your employees to follow. One of the best tools I use to measure employee and freelancer performance isTrello. It’s an easy to use and intuitive project management app/website. It works just like a tack board. It’s easy to create new boards for different business functions, visualizes workflow, and tracks which team members finish what.

Metric-based goals can be implemented once you establish a baseline of work performance. I won’t go into too much detail here. This could be a whole other article, but I’ll do a quick review.

Performance metrics should lead to a quantitative assessment of gains in:

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Organizational Performance
  • Workforce Excellence

Elements of the performance metrics should address:

  • Alignment with Organizational Mission
  • Cost Reduction and/or Avoidance
  • Quality of Product
  • Cycle Time Reduction
  • Meeting Commitments
  • Timely Delivery
  • Customer Satisfaction

And the number one question to ask yourself: Is this metric objectively measurable?

Helping your new recruit be comfortable in the workplace means helping other employees be comfortable with their new team member. Have employees speak with your new recruit about their work process and how they prioritize their role related tasks. This will give the new recruit a good idea about how to navigate issues and tasks in relation to everyone else. And your other employees can relax knowing that the new recruit understands their work process. If you have a big team then have the team leader delegate this task to one person.

The last two points are not about training. They’re about office culture, but just as important, if not more so.

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Training long-time employees in ice-breaking, mindfulness, and onboarding techniques will help your new recruit feel more at home and contribute to team cohesion in the long-run.

Cliques are all too common in the the tech/startup communities.

Even when a worker is open-minded, it is all too easy to develop a low tolerance for minor inconveniences. Recognizing and having the mental tools to deal with these feelings will make a more friendly culture at the office.

Lastly, a little competitive attitude can go a long way.

Company wide competitions and tournaments are a great way to break down barriers and instigate fun discussion within your teams. Couple that with metric based performance awards and you can create an alert, active, and above all else — fun office culture.

Originally posted on Medium.


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