An organization that’s not constantly learning is slowly dying.
Revenue, the size of your team, and the number of releases you’re pushing are all good measures of a company that’s thriving, but “growth” is about much more than that. The personal and collective growth of knowledge in your team can’t be something that’s left on the backburner to become a “When…” priority.
“When we get to profitability…”, “When we hire another developer team…”, “When we’ve doubled the pipeline…”
What happens when you’ve finally achieved those goals? You’re behind. It’s easy to fall prey to the temptation to put it off because it’s natural to chase the obvious ROI and forget about building and cultivating a culture at the same time. One of the best indicators that your company is achieving sustainable growth correlates with how much time you’re spending on continued learning and, more importantly, how you’re putting your learnings into practice.
There are obvious, business learnings that any SaaS business like ours need to be aware of:
- Customers aren’t using a feature so we figure out why and cut it, or improve our engagement strategy.
- Prospects are responding well to a particular marketing message so we double-down on our investment there and cut back or tweak the ones that aren’t hitting the mark.
- Devs are noticing performance hits from a new commit and need to go back to refactor their code.
These learnings are incredibly important in any business, and they should be part of the workflow of your teams, but there’s an important sphere missed at most companies: cross-functional and domain expertise. You might have some rockstar devs or top-notch product managers but what happens when there’s no time built into their schedule for staying up-to-date on their industry? The code’s good, the product’s good…but only for so long. It’s easy to get complacent, self-referential, and siloed without a deliberate plan for continued learning. This needs to be an effort on the part of the leadership and every team at your company.
I count myself lucky when I’m with a company that takes this seriously from Day 1, and that’s been more apparent at Panopta than any other company I’ve worked with in the past.
Because I’m in marketing, it’s imperative that I understand the product that I’m trying to bring to my audience, and on the first day I started here, one of the co-founders came up with a plan to get me up to speed quickly. We met, for a brief time every week, to dive deep into the technology that’s the “plumbing of the internet” and tie it back to how our monitoring software works. After a few sessions, I was tasked with outlining a continued learning plan for myself to build on that first month and to constantly improve domain expertise in my field of marketing.
While it might seem crazy for a co-founder to carve time out of their schedule to show the marketing director how the internet works and ask him to learn even more about marketing, it has had enormous benefits:
- I gained a deeper appreciation for our customer’s needs, backgrounds, and lingo.
- I learned what my technical colleagues were working on and it helped facilitate those first few weeks as “the new guy”, making me a part of the team quickly.
- The expectation that “there’s always more to learn” became an opportunity to make a concrete plan designed to reacquaint myself with some skills that I haven’t used in a while and go deeper in the ones where I thought I was an expert.
Can you put a hard ROI on this? With PPC ads, website optimizations, Salesforce workflows, and marketing automation programs, I’m constantly asking myself that question. But, even though it’s not easy to quantify, it should be obvious that there are concrete benefits and a return (that may be hard to measure) to the business from this culture of learning.
There isn’t a company out there, from startup to F500, who wouldn’t benefit from making continued learning a pillar of their corporate culture, and I’m lucky to be working at one that already knows this and puts it into practice.