Encourage Growth by Empowering Employees

< Back to News & Insights
by Cam Pavao | May 15, 2020 5:17 pm

When I agreed to join Avatria, I was just a couple of weeks shy of the one-year mark at my first job out of college. It had been an eventful year. I’d graduated, moved halfway across the country, started my first full-time job, made new friends, and even began taking improv classes at iO (I know, I know). I was grateful for every opportunity I’d had in that time, but couldn’t shake the feeling that my life wasn’t what I’d expected when I was packing up all of my belongings back in Amherst.

For the most part, this disappointment stemmed from my job. Back as a computer science major, I’d imagined myself poring over a problem until I unlocked the lines of code that would make a piece of software complete. I knew I had a lot to learn, and I looked forward to picking the brains of more experienced developers as we talked through issues and potential solutions. What I found was…not that. Those problems were someone else’s job to solve; the back-and-forth I’d imagined only went one way.

It was clear within the first three months that there wasn’t a long-term future for me there, but I put my head down and did the best work that I could. After all, wasn’t this just me paying my dues? Isn’t this what the first few years out of college are supposed to be like for everyone?

When I started looking for new opportunities, I expected more or less the same from my next job. I’d work hard, cobble together a little extra experience here and there, and take the next half-step in a year or two. Hopefully, if things went well, I’d be on track for the job I really wanted in 3 or 4 years.

Well I’ve been at Avatria for eight months now, and that job I really wanted? It turns out I’m already there.

At the right company, with the right structure around you, professional growth can feel exponential. Below are a few of the things that Avatria has done to help me move towards my full potential.

Amplifying My Voice

It’s common enough to see job listings and corporate values statements that declare that “every employee has a voice.” But in my experience (and based on conversations with friends in similar situations), there’s a big difference between saying that every employee has a voice and every employee actually having one. When a company says they have an “open-door” policy, I think we all know what that really means. It’s easy to “listen” to employee feedback, but do you ever act on it?

At Avatria, I’ve never felt like my insights were falling on deaf ears. Every employee is assigned a senior “career coach” from day one, a person responsible for helping to guide professional development and assure that our needs are met. Weekly one-on-ones focus on more than just the status of my assignments—they’re a dedicated time for me to talk about any issues or frustrations I’m facing, provide feedback I have about team structure or management styles, and check in on my progress towards longer career goals. I’m not going to lie: at first these sessions seemed both intimidating and insignificant, but I’ve come to appreciate how valuable they are. If something is on my mind, I don’t have to work up the courage to knock on my boss’s door; it’s much easier to communicate what you need and want when you have a set time in which you’re expected to do so.

In addition to these weekly meetings, one of the company’s Partners will periodically check in with me to see how I’m doing and ask for feedback on the company. Although it’s relatively informal, it means a lot to me that one of the Partners is asking me what I think about the company’s direction, and soliciting big ideas for how to improve the organization. It shows that they value what I think, gives me confidence in my abilities, and encourages me to take a more active role in shaping our culture.

Finally, a couple of months ago I was approached by the Partners about joining Avatria’s culture team, the group that plans happy hours, company events, in-office perks, company merchandise, and other culture-positive items. There are only four of us on the team, but all of us have been at the company for less than two years, and three of us have been here for less than one. We have a budget and some rough guidance for how money has been spent in the past, but other than that, we’re free to make decisions that affect the whole company on our own. Giving new employees that level of ownership displays tremendous trust, which has created a deeper sense of investment in my work and commitment to the company.

Building on My Existing Skillset

I should admit: my satisfaction with Avatria’s organization isn’t a complete surprise. When I interviewed for the position, we spent a lot of time discussing the specific work I would be doing, and I was asked a lot of questions about what I was interested in, what type of work I wanted to be doing, and whether or not what they described sounded satisfying to me. It was clear that they weren’t focused on simply filling an opening, but wanted to make sure that the position was as much a fit for me as I was for it.

In my first job, and in many of my friends’ first jobs, this was not at all the case. Many of us applied for jobs related to what we’d studied in college, just to find ourselves in roles only thinly similar to that background. The work we wanted always appeared to be a few rungs above us, but when opportunities to move up arose, the ladders didn’t necessarily lead where we wanted to go. It’s hard to turn down advancement early in your career, and if your company doesn’t seem interested in helping you reach your ideal destination, it’s easy to think that the only road there lies elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong: I think there should be stepping stones to the job you want, especially early in your career. But Avatria has been able to strike a balance other companies don’t. They eased me in with tasks I was equipped to do, and used my weekly coaching meetings to keep my eye on where I was heading. As I gained comfort in my role and on the project, they ramped up my workload, building my experience and confidence at the same time. It has shown me that there’s a future for me at Avatria, and makes me want to stick around as we both continue to grow.

Encouraging Collaboration

A funny thing I’ve noticed about Avatria’s emphasis on making every employee comfortable as an individual? It makes our teams stronger as well.

People don’t seem to worry that they’ll be overlooked, or that another colleague’s success will come at the expense of their own, which builds a truly productive collaborative environment. Having a voice makes us all more vocal, and our shared comfort makes us more open. The people here aren’t just generous with both feedback and praise, but know how to accept it as well. No matter the project, it feels like we’re all genuinely working together to accomplish a greater goal.

Additionally, all employees are invited (but not required) to contribute to internal initiatives, whether it’s hiring, event planning, or company marketing and social media. This enables cross-collaboration between members of different teams, making us tighter as a group, and exposing us to new opportunities to learn. Hiring in particular has been an eye opener. Companies talk about emphasizing culture as an aspect of recruiting, but I’ve never heard of a company that invites so many voices into the decision-making process (nor one that has figured out how to do so in such a structured and productive manner). All these things contribute to the feeling that Avatria is something we’re building together.

Conclusion

I could go on about the things that have made Avatria a place I want to work—the monthly team-bonding events, our new office and its perks, the flexible work culture that trusts me to get my work done without feeling like I’m being babysat—but none of these things would matter as much if my connection to my work wasn’t satisfying.

Maybe I’m biased, but in my opinion, too many companies underestimate the value of young workers. Training and managing inexperienced employees takes time and effort, and when much of this responsibility falls on more senior staff with already-full plates, it’s no surprise that few have the stomach for it. 

But with a strong, committed development structure, there’s no reason you have to turn over junior employees every year or two. By encouraging and nurturing growth from the beginning, you’ll end up with a better team—employees who know the business better, contribute more, and truly care to see the company succeed.

You don’t have to take my word for it; come see for yourself! Check out our open positions, or drop us a line to see how you might fit.

Contact us for inquiries or just to say hello.
CONTACT US