Growing with Glue WorkJuly 21, 2021
Co-Written By Kylie Martinez and Amanda Clouser
We have had many conversations this past year exploring invisible work done inside the home. This is anything from remembering to send out the Mother’s Day cards on time to ensure that the toilet paper is always stocked. As we talked about it in a personal life context, we were intrigued to see how this could translate into the workspace. We were lucky enough to find resources available regarding soft skills that employees harness and use to better the company, even if it doesn’t directly produce deliverables.
When we think of glue work in the workspace, we think of relationship building, professional growth, hard conversations over stringent policies, and intentional process improvement.
We have seen MichiganLabs be intentional about glue work as we have scaled up in company size, continuing to revisit the business structure frequently and create new processes and positions when warranted.
Why is it important to support glue work?
Developers & UX designers are hired to write code or design an app, but companies cannot run on just output alone. In all teams, there is inevitably some “glue work” that must be done in order for success.
We all benefit from unseen and extra efforts made by our leadership and team members. Without it, we would feel more like cogs in a machine than humans. MichiganLabs is quick to support endeavors surrounding glue work by reminding us that our team and their skills are more than a means to an end.
Below are our favorite ways that glue work is supported and encouraged in our workplace:
Rotating lunch is a monthly team lunch with randomized groups of 4 – 5 people from all positions and teams in Michigan Software Labs.
As our team grows, we need to maintain strong relationships with our team members. Rotating lunch allows us to reach outside our day-to-day interactions and connect with people we otherwise might not.
Monthly celebration is where we celebrate all of the birthdays, work anniversaries, and any other notable events that are occurring that month.
It’s often hard in larger organizations to recognize every celebratory event because there are too many of them, but being conscious of celebrating these things every month is a fun way to create community and feel appreciated.
Quarterly celebrations within each project team
With the nature of our work, our project length varies. To celebrate teams on longer projects or teams that don’t have a specific project (Business Ops) are acknowledged for their accomplishments.
Expanding practices when too much is falling on one person
Expanding development leads
Being flexible with growth in a company is essential to success. As our development team grew, we knew there were too many expectations falling on our single development practice lead with a group of ~20 developers. To adapt, we expanded to having Practice Co-Leads to share the weight of responsibilities.
Wellness & Culture Lead
When the company was smaller, it was easier to organize team events by looking around the office and saying, “Should we go to Culver’s?” With over thirty people now, company events & meetings require more coordination and time. This growth led to MichiganLabs hiring someone to sustain an engaging and collaborative culture, focusing on team experience, wellness and continuous efforts to create a space of belonging.
At the beginning of 2020, a book club started where groups would work through business books, discussing and honing skills applicable to our day-to-day life in the office. This opportunity has doubled as a space for team members to learn from others they do not regularly work with.
Each year, all team members a stipend is given to put toward a conference or class that would further their knowledge in a topic of their choosing. This stipend allows our team members to invest in skills they are interested in, furthering their professional development.
Lunch & Learns
Monthly, MichiganLabs has the opportunity for a wide range of topics to be taught to team members. This not only enriches the overall knowledge of the team but also provides opportunities for collaboration, community, and growth.
Defining & refining practices
Every quarter our practice leads and service group leads come together to define and discuss our objectives for the upcoming months. This drives continuous improvement and allows space for change and re-prioritization when needed.
We use Friday Feedback as a multi-functional tool that helps share information, ideas, and feedback with our leadership team. We use it for weekly check-ins, asynchronous standups, sending team members “Kudos,” submitting ideas, and pulse surveys. All of this allows leadership to stay connected with how the team is feeling.
It has been encouraging to see the leadership of MichiganLabs provides pathways to sustaining our culture throughout growth. Glue work is an essential part of what keeps MichiganLabs welcoming and team members confident in the company’s direction.
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