Is IT consulting a dead-end job? Not in our house.
In a consulting agency, it’s easy to be swept away in customer projects and lose your focus. That’s why vague promises of developing your competence are not enough – employees need support and space to build far-reaching career plans.
Motivated, skilled and ambitious employees are valuable. Qvik has always offered its employees learning materials, courses and opportunities to deepen their skills. As the company grew, however, we noticed that playing it by ear just wouldn’t cut it anymore.
“We created three career paths with different focuses based on the company’s needs and the competencies of our people. We use the paths to tell our employees what competencies we expect at different points in their careers and what practical steps they can take to develop the skills needed for the next level of seniority,” says Qvik’s Culture Hacker Ida-Maria Mannonen. “The career paths are templates, potential career paths that people can follow or use to plan their own goals.”
The skills of Qvik’s employees are mostly focused on three areas. We took this into account in the career paths, which look approximately like this at the senior level:
Core Competence Leads are high-caliber experts in their fields, such as design or development. They are enthusiastic about their field and also invest their free time in it. They are active in the scene, go to meet-ups and events, have large networks and are known outside Qvik. In-house, they are familiar with all projects in which their competencies are needed and can consult on any project. Increasing seniority in this path means more responsibility for the overall development of that competence across the organization and mentoring junior colleagues.
Business Consultants are the customer’s bedrock for building digital business strategies. They think about the big picture and financial performance of the project and are able to create competitive advantage and predict risks. Business Consultants have good sales skills and an understanding of the customer’s industry – how competitors are doing things and the trends in the sector.
Coaches/Leaders motivate and mentor the team and people around them and focus on the team’s well-being, processes and methodologies. If customers spar business goals with Business Consultants, with Coaches they implement change leadership and think about how targets can be achieved in practice. Coaches also serve as coach-mentors in our new coaching program.
“These are all essential skills that customers need for their projects, we need as a company, and professionals in this field should possess,” Mannonen says. “Steering our own employees in this direction is a clear win-win-win situation.”
Everyone needs people skills, seniors included
Our seniority model is partly based on the internal value discussions we held last spring. Even with growth, we want to keep being a continuously learning organization that is good for people to work, develop and be in. To realize this goal, we need employees who take care of themselves and each other.
“That’s why achieving senior status at Qvik requires more than being super good in one technology or area of design. You need a comprehensive skill set,” Mannonen says. “Our seniors are interested in sharing their competence and helping others develop.”
Seniority levels are important for the personal development of individuals and for communicating the skill levels of our consultants to customers.
“It’s not a pecking order. We’re all equally valuable to the community.”
The model has to be designed to fit the organization
In connection with the update of our seniority model, we also renewed performance reviews to bring them more into line with the coaching leadership principles. The reviews are no longer tied to a fixed schedule and are held with a coach-mentor specializing in the employee’s own field. Feedback from the employee’s customer and closest colleagues is collected before each review.
“It’s crucial to have suitable coaches who want to be involved and support and help others,” Mannonen says. “The company also has to understand the goals and benefits of coaching.”
The idea of coaching is not to tell people exactly what to do. It’s sparring, supporting, inspiring and making others think about what they want for themselves.
“The most important thing is to inspire people to take responsibility for their careers and invest in themselves. When people have laid out their own hopes and plans, we encourage them to speak about them,” Mannonen continues. “What motivates people to come to work and do their best is not the opportunity to make money for the employer. Instead, as a company, our goal is to help people find and achieve their own goals. That’s our fundamental ideology.”
The purpose of the new, coaching-based review model is to provide enough support but also leave personal latitude to individuals. Employees are responsible for their own personal development and scheduling their reviews. But we do keep an eye on the process to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
“The feedback has been really great, praising the model for its detail and careful design. That’s partly because the model has been designed to fit the organization.”