Inside Astha IT: How We Developed a Healthy Work Culture

November 10, 2021 |
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Not too long ago, culture wasn’t on the front burner for most companies. But things have changed. Companies around the world are making efforts to develop and nurture healthy cultures because of their realization that culture can make or break a business.

The same goes for the software industry. If a software development company runs on the ability to efficiently code a program, how does work culture affect its growth? That’s what we will discuss in today’s article.

But first, let’s understand what is truly meant by ‘company culture’.

What is Company Culture?

According to Ben Horowitz, the co-founder and CEO of both Opsware and Andreessen Horowitz, culture isn’t about perks like a gym at the office or getting free food. It does not equate to company values such as integrity, pride or sacrifice either. He clarified that a company’s culture is about three things –

  1. The collective behavior of everyone in the organization.
  2. What people do when they are not given direction.
  3. The organization’s way of doing things.

It is the reflection of a company’s leadership and its work environment. This is why a positive culture can accelerate an individual’s growth while at the same time, a negative culture can stop them from reaching their potential.

Why is it important, though?

You may still be wondering in what ways culture impacts your business. So let’s discuss the reasons that make healthy work culture crucial for a software engineering company’s success. There are basically two aspects that are largely impacted by your company culture.

First of all, it gives your company a reputation and identity. Your company’s culture reflects the way you go about business. When your company has a healthy work culture, your employees and teams have a good grasp on what they can accomplish in a given time. And there usually is a tendency to over-deliver than to over-commit. This results in a reputation for your company for being punctual and reliable.

Good reputation does usually relate to easier onboarding. As your company gets recognized for its reliability and healthy work culture, more talented developers will be interested in working for you. The onboarding process will also be smoother as your company culture is strong and well-organized.

Which brings us to the other aspect impacted by company culture. A strong company culture does not only make onboarding smoother, but also turns your employees into your allies. When the leadership is successful in making the employees feel valued, they will become the strongest advocates of the company. Whereas a ‘bad’ company culture might turn your employees into your greatest critiques.

An enjoyable and nurturing environment will also improve employee retention and engagement. Attracting, retaining and engaging talents is a massive issue for most software companies as the best of them are always looking for growth. This issue can only be helped by developing a healthy work culture.

And of course, as the employees are happier and more nurtured in a healthy work culture, they perform better resulting in your company’s financial growth. Edgar Schein Model has demonstrated how business performance is damaged when profit takes precedence over human empathy. Successful companies always focus on purpose rather than profit.

What should we not do to develop a healthy culture?

Let’s rule out the don’ts first. A software company culture can be considered unhealthy when there are no shared values, goals or principles among the teams. When people are not aligned on project priorities, goals and expectations, working together is usually much more difficult.

A company’s culture influences the decisions and actions taken by the people within it. Chaotic and inconsistent decisions become parts of the culture. An unpredictable environment is characteristic of an unhealthy culture in any organization.

How we are practicing a healthy culture!

By this time, most of us understand why having a positive company culture is crucial for businesses. But the real question is – how do we understand whether our company culture is good or bad? And how do we change it?

Here at Astha IT, we practice what we preach. So we thought sharing how we are practicing a healthy culture might be helpful.

Foster learning and growth

This is arguably the most important thing you can do to promote your software company culture towards the positive. Any talented individual who is familiar with their potential will seek growth opportunities. And any software developer who is passionate about what they do will seek mental stimulation.

Software development calls for constant learning and every software development team needs to build this into their culture. We should promote an environment where every developer can ask questions without hesitation and the leaders are always willing to help. There should be opportunities to engage in deep conversations about technologies and trends in the industry.

Moreover, we consider learning as a company to be very important as well. That is why we try and adapt to new technologies as soon as possible. Because the world of technology is moving fast and we have to keep up in order to keep growing.

Remove bureaucracy from the system

In a healthy software development company culture, developers need to be able to discuss their issues openly with their leaders. Software development involves vast amounts of technical knowledge. There might be times when your employee is right about something and you are wrong. Rather than trying to keep your ‘reputation’ as their boss intact, you should acknowledge your mistakes and create an environment that encourages everyone to share their opinion. The developers should have easy access to the top management to reduce friction in the problem solving process. That’s why a flat hierarchy works better than a tall hierarchy in software companies.

It is always really important to discuss any new changes, be that in software processes or in office schedules, with your employees as they are the ones being most affected by them. It’s not always enough just to get an opinion from the top management. The development team may have unique perspectives that you have completely missed out. Declaring any future changes beforehand and welcoming employees to share their thoughts may remove shortcomings and blockages later.

Provide an environment where developers can feel at home

Let me tell you a story. One day, a member of our highly talented development team was working on an engaging project. He was so involved in the task at hand that he lost track of time. All of his coworkers left the office one by one and soon it was 10 pm! The office peon then walked up to him and asked when he would be leaving. And his instant response was, “Oh! I am not at home?”

The bottom line of this story is obvious. He was so comfortable in his office environment that he even forgot for a moment that he was away from his home. This is the type of environment we need to provide our developers with.

Software engineering is a highly engaging work that requires one to sit at a desk and focus on the task at hand for hours. Their attention to detail is very important and losing focus is pretty much not even an option. They need to be comfortable to do such mentally draining work. If that means providing snacks on demand or comfier sitting arrangement, a company with a healthy work culture will ensure that.

Involve in ‘extracurricular’ activities

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

So it is very important to promote knowledge-driven activities that are not directly related to work and are considered fun by the team. We are always trying to create and maintain a learning environment for our tech team. To encourage learning in our company, we try to set scenarios like taking part in weekly ‘tech adda’ every Sunday afternoon where the whole tech team gathers in the conference room and chats about all things tech and organizing in-house hackathons where the developers are given a set of problems to challenge them in different ways than their daily work.

But we don’t only participate in knowledge-driven or tech-based activities either. Let’s be honest, even the most passionate of developers still need a break from technology! And at Astha IT, we always believe in building relationships and taking part in meaningful conversations. It cannot be denied that working with a team is easier when you know your teammates well.

That is why we encourage our employees to get to know each other by organizing joining parties, birthday parties, yearly tours and many more. And this year, we have taken it a step further by participating in the Inter Software Company Cricket Tournament.

Taking part in these activities together develops a sense of comradery among the employees, creates the opportunity to get to know members of other teams who have never worked together on a project and keeps the morale up.

Create a clear roadmap for your employees

As mentioned before, the best talents are the ones who always look for opportunities to grow. And we have pretty much established it by now that a healthy software company culture should be fostering the growth mindset.

To keep your employees motivated to work, your company should be providing them with a clear map of their career path. How many years do they need to work in order to get their next promotion? What are the achievements that unlock as they help your company grow through their wonderful performance for another year? Any established company should be transparent about their review process and growth opportunities year over year in order to retain the best talents and, of course, keep a healthy culture of progress.

Review the onboarding process.

If you want your positive company culture to sustain, you need to hire the right people. You need people who view values in the same light as you do. And your onboarding process needs to reflect that. It may mean including a personality test or a screening test in the process.

Most of our onboarding here is done through the Dev Bootcamp we host once every year. It is an internship programme for fresh CS graduates where 30 candidates are trained for three months on advanced technologies and introduced to the environment of a software development company. These 30 candidates are chosen from thousands of applicants via a coding test. Every year we hire at least 4 to 6 candidates from these interns and recommend the others to software companies with good work cultures.

In today’s dynamic and tech-savvy world, your softwares represent your company. The developers are the ones who make it happen creating a brand presence in front of the world. The culture that is prevalent in the company reflects on your developers’ productivity and mindset. So if you want your organization to perform and grow, it is time to work on your company’s culture.

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