Employers can reap massive benefits from employee training, provided that it’s done right. Employees want to work at companies that provide them with development opportunities, and companies that do invest in employee training programs can not only raise the quality of their projects, but also increase developer happiness that ultimately contributes to high retention rates.
At RST Software, we have a systematic approach to employee training and development. That said, it doesn’t mean that we have a structured training program that developers must follow, but an overall development plan oriented at boosting the skills of our developers. And judging by our high employee retention rate, it not only works, but also helps us keep our developers happy with their job.
In this article, we’d like to share the details of our Mentorship program, which we have instilled specifically to effectively boost the skills of our development team. The goal is to offer them structured development opportunities within the company, so that they didn’t want to look for it elsewhere. Here are the key assumptions of this program:
Every employee who signs up to participate in that program will have it tailored specifically to their needs, or the needs of the projects. At the beginning of the program, the employee will speak to their dedicated HR Guide (more about this specific role in our company in this article) to determine the exact needs and explore the possibilities within the company.
Our Mentorship program was specifically designed to help our junior devs acquire new skills, but in the meantime, mid-level developers started benefiting from it as well. This works particularly well when a specific project is coming to an end and a dev has a perspective to start working on another one, but lacks specific skills. In that case, they can sign up for the Mentorship program which will help them acquire the skills necessary for the transition.
It has clearly defined goals and timeframe
Next, the HR Guide, in cooperation with Frontend and Backend Leads, will identify the relevant Mentor that will be assigned to the dev (at which point they will become a Mentee). Subsequently, they will sit down with the Mentee and work on identifying specific, attainable, short-term goals of the program and also stipulate how the goals will be achieved. The goals will be set taking into account both the needs of the employee and the needs of our current or upcoming projects. Typically, a Mentorship program lasts over the course of three months. However, in our experience, the time frame serves to ensure that the plan doesn’t get lost over the course of time and that the training program doesn’t last for an indefinite period of time. At the end, we also want to assess the progress, which we measure by surveying both Mentors and Mentees.
It’s run by experienced tech Mentors
To ensure that as many employees benefit from this program as possible, we designated dedicated Mentors that will take care of overseeing the development programs within the specific technology in which they specialize. The point is to have someone experienced pass their knowledge to those devs who are less experienced.
We have a poll of Mentors-experts currently covering different thematic areas: frontend development, backend development, React, React Native, NodeJS, Java, UX design, DevOps, Business Process Automation and others, and plan to expand the poll of Mentors to include other thematic areas as well.
It involves solving practical tasks
The mentorship program is alongside the different thematic communities that are operational with I would not accompany a form of practical support and a way to gain new knowledge and hone new skills in practice. The overall goal of the program is to raise the skills and competencies of our developers in their everyday work.
Depending on the skills required, the employee development plan may involve:
- Code review,
- Tech consultations,
- Pair programming,
- Participation of workshops and training sessions,
- Indicating relevant resources for self-study,
- Ongoing contact, as required,
- Other elements, agreed upon by the Mentor and Mentee.
The Mentee will be asked to perform their tasks outside the working hours. The idea is that, as an employer, we provide ample resources for development for our devs for free, but that should be willing to benefit from the program and make their own contribution to it as well.
The Mentor will be asked to devote up to four hours of their working time per week, if there is enough space in the project, and this will count towards their work time. It is a great motivation for our senior devs to exchange their knowledge and experience with younger peers.
It involves final assessment
At the end of the employee development program, the HR Guide will meet with the Mentor and Mentee to assess the outcomes. If, at the end of the program, the Mentor deems that the Mentee hasn’t yet met the goals, the program may be repeated. This, however, will involve starting the cycle from the very beginning: identifying clear goals and preparing a plan for achieving them.
It undergoes review by our participants at the end
You may think this isn’t important, but having the participants review your training program at the end it only helps you to understand whether it was meaningful for them or not, but will offer insights as to how this program could be further improved in the future. The Mentorship program at RST was introduced in 2022 as a pilot project and the survey carried out among participants showed that our employees were content with the outcomes and that, overall, the program was successful. These surveys also provide useful insights into the level of competences that were being honed by our devs and offer suggestions as to how the program could be further improved.
It ensures support for Mentors
Our Mentors who get involved in the program also have dedicated ‘support meetings’ every two weeks. The goal for the Mentors is to exchange knowledge and experiences about the program, so that it could be further improved also from this angle. If, for instance, a Mentor observes that they need to explore with their Mentee a direction they aren’t yet familiar with, he can discuss this blocker with other Mentors during this meeting, so that they could suggest a good solution.
The Mentors also have a dedicated channel on Slack specifically for this purpose. Any organizational changes to the program are also posted on that channel.
It’s voluntary and open to every employee
The Mentorship program at RST is open to every employee. It’s enough for them to approach their dedicated HR Guide who will subsequently ensure the process gets started for them. In our view, it’s pointless to enforce any form of development on employees – such efforts would only suppress motivation and wouldn’t bring any palpable results. At the same time, the HR Guide or the Tech Lead can suggest (but never enforce!) taking part in the program in order to raise a specific competency, if they see that such a move could help them advance in their career. We focus on working with people that are genuinely interested in raising their skills – it’s something we confirm as early as during the recruitment process. It’s simply our way of closing the ongoing employee development loop.
Interested in working with RST?
I hope this article served as a proof that at RST we invest in employee development and do so in a consistent and systematic way. We are convinced that this helps us ensure we always deliver projects of the highest quality and aligned with current standards. It also helps us keep our developers on board for years, as the below seniority graph shows.
We also invest in employee development programs also to ensure we can offer the highest quality of staff augmentation services to companies that look for technical support. In addition, it helps us to offer an additional advantage of specialized technical teams, such as geospatial, media streaming, data visualization, messaging and other dedicated software teams.
If you have any questions on the above, just contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll ensure they will be answered promptly.