Our High School professor of Economics asked, “Which is the goal of a commercial company?”, “make money” we said. He retorted, “If the goal is to make money, then you just sell the company, and you will get a lot of money, all at the same time.” Well, he was right. After a while, we realized that the goal of a commercial company is to make money and keep making it over time.
One decade later, I learnt about “Management by Objectives” and how to decompose objectives into the waterfall of sub objectives. Then, regarding our High School lesson and doing a first breakdown, I realized seems like the “company goal” could be decomposed into:
- Make money, (which means increase billing and margin)
- Keep your client happy
- Keep the people of your company happy and the tools you use to produce updated and well maintained.
The first one is related to the “make money” part of the general goal, the other two are related to “ keep making money” part.
Indeed, continue making money depends on your clients continued purchase of your products and services and your people continuing producing them, producing in such a condition that makes your clients happy enough to continue spending money.
And, in such condition that make your no-clients become your clients taking in consideration how happy your current clients are (letting the no-clients know about it with success stories and other marketing ”techniques”).
What makes your clients happy? Well, the answer is a few paragraphs ago, they also want:
To make money at the lowest cost, their own customers to be happy, and their employees too. And, they want to keep their production assets (e.g. operational software) more efficiently than their competitors.
Anyway, making clients happy, is kind of an old story. Since “the customer is always right” people is inventing ways to make clients happy.
The new variable in the equation, in my opinion, is the growing importance of “employee’s happiness”.
The “new” happy group
As stated above, the breakdown of “make money and continue making it” implies to have your “means of production” in good shape. In a manufacturing plant that means to have the best machinery of the market maintained in the best condition. If your company produces software products then the “machinery” are people, and you have to have the best in the market, well maintained and doing the things they do better.
Granted, calling people “machinery” is not proper, in fact utterly improper (also “human resources” is sometimes considered rude, we could use euphemisms like Human Potential, Human Talent, Human Capital etc. ). But, as it is a matter of unnegotiable principles not to forget the sacred nature of the Human Being, it is also necessary to see that the process of creating software is a production process.
Thirty years ago, we, people, only expected to get a good salary and a job that allowed us to do what we trained for. Long commutes, moving to another city, and uncomfortable conditions were secondary factors when we decided to take a job.
Now, there is a huge demand of technical people, especially, software technical people.
After a decade working with Argentinian companies selling products to USA, Europe and Latin America, it is clear that this demand for technical people is global. In Argentina, there is a big demand for technical people just because these kind of people is in high demand in the rest of the world. This doesn’t depend on present Argentina’s circumstances, it is a worldwide trend.
This demand implies a lot of job offers for technical positions. Now people can get good salaries, doing what they like in the company of their liking and choice. Then, it is important for a Company to differentiate itself from others looking for employee’s happiness.
What makes the people happy at work? What makes us happy at work?
There are many factors. I noted in young people (20 to 30), who are most of our workforce, that their motivation has two main aspects:
- the chance of having a professional career, which usually means the chance to improve their technical knowledge and experience, doing interesting, new things using new technologies.
- to be comfortable in the work environment.
Of course, a good salary is foundational in this “Maslow Pyramid”, but the above motivations are as or more important than salary, especially in workers with less family responsibilities (which is quite usual with the 20-to-30-year old).
Companies recognized and reacted to this situation trying to create a “friendly” environment. But, following the latest “Google offices trend” and acting friendly is not enough, it is necessary to internalize this idea to give a friendly character to the relationship with the employees and really take care of their needs.
We like Mr. Spock, Commander Data and Seven of Nine – The missing motivation.
Anyway, we are all engineers (Computer Scientists are also part of this “lodge”). Engineers are not regular people, we are very curious about how things work, our work and natural tendency is to solve problems. Our hard skills usually are natural and very strong, our soft skills (if we have any) usually are acquired, trained and coached into us, and we acquired, trained and coached those skills just because it was necessary for solving problems (usually related to human communication and team working). We strongly prefer facts rather than opinions, we are not natural believers, we have to check everything by ourselves and, as a summary, as I said before, we are not regular people, indeed (but not necessarily nerds, at least because physical abilities are usually not far from us).
If you accept this description (and you will, in particular if you are not an engineer and you had to deal with us) perhaps you may follow my next argument. After a few months with Intraway, something came into its place as a shape fitted in the old Tetris. What was it? Perhaps I discovered it when trying to explain to other people what Intraway’s products do. In fact, I had to learn what we do because of my ignorance about many technical aspects of communication standards and devices. I think that we are talking of, up to now, a missing motivation. This motivation is that working in an Engineering company is utterly proper for us, engineers. That could sound obvious, but… do you consider it when interviewing somebody as a hiring prospect?
Think about it, you are comfortable because most people speak your own language. You are working right in which the company does (I mean, you are not a developer in a shopping chain or a bank, who sell stuff or services) and you have a lot of technical knowledge to learn (tv, mobile, broadband, TM Forum standards, communication protocols or whatever your technical company does). I really think it is important what you do, beyond doing that with computers.
A few years ago one of my teams was working in a software application for managing millions of SMSs for a silly lottery/trivia of a famous tv show, a work with a lot of technical complexity, but with a big sense of no purpose. Another team was developing software for merchandising beer. Think about that, a lot of us like Star Trek, we grew admiring Spock, learning about Data’s positronic brain or liking the objectiveness of Seven of Nine. Please, tell me, sincerely, can you imagine Mr Spock telling Capitan Kirk that he developed a better program for producing beer? . Wouldn’t be better hear to Spock say that he created a new method for encapsulating IPV6 packets in IPV4 ones, or Seven of Nine announcing that she developed an algorithm to track unauthorized access to telecommunication centrals?
Yes, I think that working in an engineering company is usually ignored as motivation factor, but a technical career is not only to write programs with the latest tools, languages or technics, it is also very important what kind of programs/projects you are carrying on. This gives an “extra” happiness that shouldn’t be ignored by companies and workers at the time of filling a position (both, as employee or employer).
The final frontier: Money and Happiness
Make money, keep the client happy, keep your team happy; if any action you are taking at your company is not related with, at least, one of these three objectives, it’s very likely that your company would be better off with you not doing that action.
Making money and client happiness are known issues, make your team happy, is the new challenge, because “money doesn’t bring happiness”, but happiness does bring money!