Company values—how often do you see them in action? It seems like company values should be something a company lives and breathes, but usually, they’re not that visible in everyday operations. Especially when the companies start to grow, build new roles, hire more people, and the structure becomes more complex, values fade and begin to live in hiding. How to bring them back to life? In this blog post, you’ll read about our way of making values relevant again. Check how we incorporated company values into a career matrix.

Soft skills in the tech world

Soft skills in the IT world may seem not to be so obvious. While we can easily define the tech skills needed for all seniority levelsfrom Junior to Senior, it’s not that easy to do the same with soft skills. Probably that is also the reason for underestimating this part of the skillset in tech companies. But in the reality of a software house like Apptension, there’s no way to ignore soft skills. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to succeed in accomplishing our goals and making our mission and vision live. How can we provide the best product development experience for our clients without mixing tech expertise and craft with communication and teamwork? We need a “secret sauce” that makes all the difference.

Competences. How do we define them?

Grzegorz Filipowicz, a well-known Polish HR consultant, describes competences as “dispositions in the area of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable people to realize professional tasks on a required level.” Competences are a very complex concept, and we should treat them seriously. When it comes to defining competences, it’s not enough to say that you require excellent communication skills from your employees. You need a more specific definition like this one: to communicate in a way that allows you to participate in teams’ meetings actively—listen, speak openly, and respect the opinions and decisions of other team members.

Soft skills belong in the area of competence that is connected with social life and being part of the team. They’re shaping us as coworkers and make other people more likely collaborate with us. The list of soft skills can be endless, though. How not to get lost in the maze of competences and choose those that matter for your organization? Company values can be the compass that leads you to adopt the mindset you want to see in everyday actions and the competences you need to develop in your team.

Value-based competency matrix

How have we built a competency matrix that relies on company values? Let’s take a closer look at each of the five steps:

  • Prepare a list of your company values. If you don’t have it, define the values first with the team. It’s essential to invite the team: company values are not something that you’ll just incorporate in your company DNA, it should be something that already exists there, and you need to discover them.
  • Think about actions that support your company values (DOS) and those you don’t want to see at all (DONT’S). Such a Code of Conduct will help you shape a final competency matrix. Just take a look at an example from our Code of Conduct.
  • Prepare a list of actions based on values for each seniority level (Junior, Regular, Senior, Manager/Lead). Think about behaviors that distinguish Regulars from Juniors and Seniors from Regulars. They make a difference.
  • Focus on the whole organization. Values apply to everyone, and we shouldn’t compromise on our expectations for various roles. We decided to shape one soft skills matrix for all departments and focus on specifics in terms of job-related skills.
  • Try to be specific as you can when it comes to describing the behaviors. That will help you to observe if you can see each value in action. Practices and actions need to be well-explained.

We had our values already defined. Teamwork, Dedication to innovation, Customer understanding, Knowledge sharing, and Constant Improvement were our values almost from the very beginning. The Code of Conduct, with all the behaviors and actions we want to see within the organization, was also published on our Confluence. Still,  introducing the competency matrix was a step forward. Imagine the situation of promoting someone from Regular to Senior. At Apptension, there is no way of starting to be a Senior without mastering the necessary soft skills. You can be a tech expert, but how’d you lead a tech side of the project without the ability to communicate clearly with the team and a client and not taking ownership of your actions? In order to know how to be promoted to a given position, you need to know what the expectations are. They cannot stay in the unspoken area. The competency matrix based on company values will help you to move the skills of your team in the right direction. The direction that is unique for your company.