SkillsUp Program and Symphony’s Culture of Personal Development

SkillsUp Program and Symphony’s Culture of Personal Development

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September 9th, 2021

At Symphony, one simple premise sets the foundation for everything we do: “By promoting a culture of personal development, we create a cohesive, individualized and intentional experience.” We are witnessing a global shift in understanding individual development as a necessity. Now, it is crucial to work towards integrating individual development plans within the organization that will enable both business and individual transformations. 

In order to meet our community’s needs, we need to craft optimal strategies for individual development that are effective, scalable, and sustainable at the same time. This approach aims for people to reach their full potential, further develop their skills and connect them to the company’s broader challenges in shaping the future together. 

Meeting the Individual Development Needs

We believe that a culture of individual development contributes to a culture of resilience. The people development initiatives we work on at Symphony are aimed to empower our community members, gain awareness of areas to improve and further develop their strengths. Our learning and development initiatives focus largely on upgrading the skills, behavior, and mindsets that unlock each of our community members’ true potential. 

One such initiative was our SkillsUp Program, designed to expand the learning and development initiatives in our development center in Skopje focusing on the importance of personal development and continuous self-improvement. It was entirely demand-driven and designed to tackle a topic or an entire area of interest that every participant could further explore at their pace, manner, or depth, based on their personal aspirations. 

We listened to the pulse of our community members and created a one-year development plan divided into six major topics and multiple sub-topics. SkillsUp resulted in a sustained, personalized development program and enabled us to get more insight into the impact our talent strategy has on the well-being, performance, and growth of our people. The main principle was to offer a set of topics that our community members would then explore and find the area they would like to work on most. We included six people skills topics that further expand into five modules and cover the areas of communication, leadership, conflict resolution, time management, negotiation, and presentation skills. 

We set up a dynamic approach. Our participants meet every three weeks for 90-minute sessions filled with case studies and role plays for a hands-on experience. Following our SkillsUp's methodology, every participant may pursue individual mentoring and coaching sessions in the field they find most interesting. 

Communication-wise, we tackle potential barriers and solutions, negotiation models, and consider various conversation tips and tricks as development areas beneficial for both our community members and clients. Considering leadership and management, we aim to address motivational factors, different self-management techniques, from time-management and presentation skills, to task delegation. 

Consequently, our community had excellent reactions and the program met their expectations and more.

“SkillsUp workshops are beneficial for personal development as well as for improving and developing a particular skill. The workshops are well thought out, filled with interesting examples and activities that are useful for achieving your goals faster.” (Angela Trpkovska, Software Engineer, Skopje Development Center)

“I signed up for the SkillsUp program because there is always room to learn something new and improve our skills, as it is a lifelong process. I especially liked that the material was presented through role-plays and interactive and fun approaches, making it more exciting and, of course, easier to apply.” (Ivan Todorovski, QA Engineer, Skopje Development Center)

As one of our Software Engineers, Mario pointed out, it is the combination of technical and people skills that make an exceptional engineer and our SkillsUp Program works on polishing those areas that might be underdeveloped. The important thing is achieving the balance between the two. 

“What the IT industry calls "soft skills" the rest of the world calls only "skills". Lack of certain "soft skills" limits the potential for technical skills to be fully utilized. While learning technical skills has a clear path to the goal, learning "soft skills" is best facilitated by mentors who are professionals in the field. That is why I consider these types of workshops to be one of the most useful ways to upgrade my career.” (Mario Rajchikj, Software Engineer, Skopje Development Center)

The Long-term Effect of the SkillsUp Program

Symphony’s  People Team works continuously on creating systems for recognizing potentials and answering the development needs. As collaboration is one of the key parts of our company's DNA, we tend to grow our community in a manner in which all team members can choose what motivates and makes them happy. Sometimes it means a complete shift of a technology stack; other times, it is coaching to improve their people skills. Still, regardless of the format and the process, we aim to add value, both for the individual and our community.

Considering the fact that SkillsUp was designed based on the needs of our Skopje community, it was not a surprise that the diversity of roles of participants included in the workshops covered all segments of our community - software development, service delivery, people operations. SkillsUp’s approach brings value to everyone. Our community members had a shared motivation - to learn something new or improve an existing set of skills. “One of the best things about the workshops is that you are discovering some characteristics about yourself that you possess in those sessions, but you’ve never even thought about before.” (Nenad Mirkoski, QA Engineer, Skopje Development Center) 

As this is a lifelong learning process, the program’s dynamic methodology tends to reflect on the needs of our community and shape accordingly in order to achieve the shared goal of acquiring new skills. We are looking forward to opening new chapters and development areas that bring value for our teams in delivering daily tasks and overcoming personal and professional challenges. 

We kicked off our workshops at the beginning of June, 2020, and we are continuing strong throughout 2021. The number of participants is constantly growing as our community members are sharing their positive experiences daily. Today, a third of our Skopje community is actively engaged in our SkillsUp Program. In the end, we can say that this program is a stepping stone of our people's initiatives that can be further expanded, adjusted, and catered to the needs and best interests of our community members. For us, the community is what Symphony is built on, and by listening to their personal and professional aspirations and vision, we are building a better future for each of them, as well as the company as a whole. 

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