“How do you guys do it?” I’m often asked.
In the last two years, Medullan, a digital health firm, headquartered in Cambridge, MA has more than tripled in size - going from a 30 person boutique healthcare consulting firm to over 100 people across 4 offices - and is winning business against competitors much larger than us.
What’s more, even in the midst of the toughest hiring market since the dot-com era, we’ve had no problem attracting great talent. Or keeping it.
Because the demand for good technology workers is so high, candidates have the power to drive a pretty hard bargain. Yet we are able to fill our tech positions in just weeks, compared to the 3 to 4 months average for most companies. It says a lot that prospects are eager to sign on with us, and even more that our retention rate is quite high.
So how did we get here? Ahmed Albaiti, Medullan’s founder and CEO, doesn’t hesitate to say, “It’s the teams. Without great teams, we can’t do anything. With them, we can do amazing things.”
I think he’s half-right. (Challenging the boss, I know.) As the guy responsible for hiring and nurturing talent at Medullan, I agree that putting together the right mix of people is absolutely key. But it’s also what you do to keep them happy, interested and turned on by the work that matters.
Here are my top five tips for building great teams:
1. Start with a big purpose.
It may look like Medullan is in the healthcare technology business, but the truth is, we’re in the people business.
We are here to make a difference for our clients and their customers -- to make it easy for people to modify certain behaviors that will help them lead happier, healthier lives. Every day, that ripples out to touch millions of lives -- over 100 million, truth be told. And every employee can see the contribution he or she makes.
Because of this, the work we do is always innovative. It is always specific to our clients needs and challenges, always involves solving complex problems through new technologies -- and almost always different from anything we’ve done before.
For the kind of person who thrives on these things, Medullan is a perfect fit. It’s also one reason why our voluntary turnover rate is only 10%, much lower than the technology company norm of 30 - 35%.
2. Walk your talk.
Do you, as a company, live and breathe your mission and values? Or do you have to look them up? I can gladly report that our core values are woven into everything we do at Medullan. You’ll see it in the nature of the work we take on, hear it in the hallways and conference rooms, feel it in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation that is everywhere. We work at a fast pace, and we are extremely results driven. But instead of being stressed, our people channel that energy into excitement and fuel for innovation. That’s the difference passion makes.
3. Go for the right fit. Don't settle.
Birds of a feather not only flock together, they soar higher. We can’t train people to be passionate, motivated self-starters. And we don’t believe in merely filling a position. We don’t have that luxury. Every hire has to be a smart hire and a great fit.
They have to come to us with the same qualities that make us tick. Driven by a desire to accomplish something good and worthy, excited by challenges, willing to share ideas and collaborate with other brilliant problem-solvers. The kind of person who naturally takes ownership of the client’s problem and won’t let go until it is solved beautifully. The kind of person who isn’t afraid to try something, fail, revise and come back stronger. The kind of person who understands that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
4. Give people space, ownership and opportunities.
“IT workers tend to stay longer and find more satisfaction when they feel they can ‘own’ their work and it’s something they influence from a creative point of view.” says Herb Gosewisch, partner at U.S. Alliance Partners, a consultancy focused on employee engagement and sustainability practices. We couldn’t agree more.
We know without a doubt that our people are our greatest asset. That’s why we trust them to do great work. We also give them the room to do so.
Every single person views the client’s problems as if they were their own, and commits to finding a solution that really works. We foster an environment where people can be creative and resourceful, where they can try new things, challenge assumptions, and push innovation.
Just as important, we see our people as people -- with their own aspirations and dreams and reasons for being. You don’t have to hide your loftier goals from us. We start working with you on your career plan from Day One, and will do everything we can to nurture your path. Even if that path means that you someday want to quit the business and open a Bed and Breakfast. (True story.)
5. Have fun, get it done and don't ever get complacent.
Creating an environment that inspires great work is important to us and to our teams. So yes, we have food truck runs, standing desks, “Bring Your Dog to Work Days”, and one-day-a-week telecommuting, among other perks. But that’s not what attracts or drives the exceptional people at Medullan.
For our people, the ability to “crack the code” -- to pinpoint the real issue -- that’s what makes working here so exciting. And our people do get excited. We invite everyone to participate in“workshops” to share ideas and challenge each other.
This has real benefits, as leadership expert Peter Economy pointed out in a recent Inc. Magazine article, “When a team identifies, addresses, and pushes through obstacles on its own, individuals draw closer together, and their success gives rise to confidence and camaraderie.”
At the same time, we never want to rest on the laurels of what we accomplished yesterday. There’s still so much more to do. As Yogi Berra would say, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”
For healthcare companies that have very complex customer problems –– and those of us who thrive on solving them –– that’s a good thing.”
If you're interested in finding out more about us and current job openings - let's talk!