As a software agency or a product house (or in my opinion any other type of company, especially from the IT industry) growing the knowledge of your employees should be one of the most crucial aspects when it comes to the employee lifecycle.

It’s definitely not very easy, and in this article, I’d like to suggest a few approaches. Which one will fit your company? Really hard to say. It all depends on the values you represent, people you have (or want to) hire and the type of business you’re running.

First, the most common approach is running hackathons inside the company. 

This is something most of the companies have tried at least once, and I’m sad to say, most of them failed at this completely.

So what is the basic assumption of a hackathon? Finding a solution to a problem in a given (usually short) time by a team of people (can be multidisciplinary). 

It seems like a very cool idea but has a lot of problems. First, the most obvious is finding a problem to solve. It may seem easy, but please bear in mind that a hackathon should have some tangible outcome. So whatever problem you choose should be possible to be solved within the given time. Usually, the hackathon’s are organized for maximum one day. This makes the number of problems that can be solved pretty limited.

The other thing is the actual results and their effects on the organization. Because most of the cases whenever talking about hackathons the result is some kind of software. From my perspective, it is pretty hard to actually do something with the software and maintain it. An additional problem is keeping the motivation and productivity for each next hackathon.

The other approach is something called Investment Day. This, in the opposite of the hackathon, doesn’t have to be focused on a problem and doesn’t require a group.

Investment day is a day when the given person does not work for a commercial project but spends time to learn/do things. Of course, an investment day should have a given effect and be well-planned. From my perspective though, it’s way easier to maintain a good motivation even if you do it every month. What is more, some things can be done continuously on each next investment day (for. Ex. maintaining open source). There is one thing which is extremely important – in order for Investment Days to work each person within the organization should have some kind of clear goals defined for his/her development. Thanks to that, anytime an investment day is taken, it is easy to choose something to do and allows the overall progress of the whole organization.

As mentioned – investment day does not require a group effort, so project-wase it’s easier to organize as you do not need to take whole team off-project – which may be extremely difficult in software houses.

The third, least popular and in my opinion, the worst approach is something which companies tend to name “slack day” which basically allows anyone to do anything, within a day. Without much control and supervision, it requires a very well-motivated and organized team for this to work. I’d say that the ideal case for organizing such a day is high-pressure organizations working in a stressful environment in which members really need to have some time to do things on their own, according to their current needs.

For sure these are not all of the possible ways for people to grow their internal knowledge but for sure they are the common ones.

In this article, I did not cover that much the technicalities of each day, but I assume they are pretty self-explanatory.

If you need any help in organizing and maintaining ways of improving internal knowledge – we would be happy to talk to you and advise about possible solutions right for your team.