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Make Time for Personal Growth of Your Employees

Personal Growth
Career Path

24 September, 2019

Satish Viswanatham
Satish Viswanatham

Senior Director of Engineering at Second Genome

Satish Viswanatham, Senior Director of Engineering at Skillz, shares how his company balanced its OKRs and the career goals of their employees and how they managed to secure time for their employees’ personal growth.

Problem

One of the greatest challenges we encountered was how to balance the company's OKRs and the career goals of our employees. At one point, we realized that we spend around twenty percent of our time working on activities relating to either career paths and grids or acquiring new skills. Since that was the case, we concluded that between sixty and eighty percent of our employees' work should count as the "actual" work while the remaining time could be spent on working on career skills, solving technical problems, learning a different framework, etc.

Actions taken

The first thing that we did was to include career documents and discussions into actionable items. They became an integral part of our work plan. At the same time, everyone became familiar with their career grids as well as with their personal goals that are connected with specific features or projects they would be working on.

We applied the concept of fixed velocity or fixed story points. At each sprint, every engineer was required to complete twenty-story points. At the beginning of every quarter, we would decide on a number of features or goals at the company level. Based on these numbers we could decide what the team split is and what number of story points relate to "actual" work. Then, this could be translated to the individual level as well. If a quarter is fully packed with features, it is more likely that the amount of "actual" work will be around eighty percent of one's time while if there is only a minor release planned it will be more towards sixty percent. In that instance, everyone will do twelve feature points and the remaining time will be reserved for improving the platform they are working on, learning a new framework, enhancing their career grid skills, etc.
We are open to adjusting our plan when needed. If someone needs more time for their career grid skills we will secure more time for these activities. However, all these adjustments have to be aligned with the team's work plan for the upcoming quarter.

Lessons learned

  • It is important to integrate the personal development plan into your work plan and find a balance between the "actual" work and work that enhances the skills of your employees.
  • This approach can't be subsumed under a usual agile approach where you just look at velocity. This is a blend between the agile and waterfall approaches. We still do weekly sprints but at the same time, we follow a more structured plan. Personal development is part of the structured plan which is when needed open for adjustments.

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