By Jonathan Sercu

How Crodeon uses Holy Innovation Time to build outstanding products with amazing people

How Crodeon uses Holy Innovation Time to build outstanding products with amazing people

Crodeon is a product business, so innovation is the only way to increase the value of our company. But technology is evolving so fast nowadays. How do you keep improving the skills of your people?

The problem with training

In the past, keeping your employees skills up to date was done with regular training courses, organized internally or externally. Classic training comes with quite a few problems though:

  • The content is never 100% relevant for the job or employee

  • In the world of tech, the topic that is being taught is often outdated after just a few months

  • The tempo of the course is too high for certain employees, too low for others

When we hired our first employees in 2020, we started thinking how they could keep improving their skills. In startups there usually aren’t enough other colleagues to learn from, as it is the case in large companies. And for the reasons mentioned above, we don’t believe in classic training.

The solution: Holy Innovation Time (HIT)

Learning about a new tool, or using new technology takes often just a few hours. The problem, we learned, was that employees were never actively given the time to try something out. “Do it in your spare time, or at night”, was what their boss used to say.

As a team, we came up with the perfect solution: Holy Innovation Time. The HIT-day is one day per month for our employees to experiment with new tools and technology, at their own pace and in their domain of interest. The word “holy” is there for a reason. This time is sacred for every employee. They choose the topic, related to their current work or not.

Learning a new skill nowadays is done by reading blog posts, watching video’s and trying stuff out. There’s so much content on the internet, and almost every tool has a free trial. And if it doesn’t, the cost for signing up is just a fraction of the cost of a classic training course.

Innovation time, not free time

We did set a few conditions, in order to get the maximum return for our colleagues and for Crodeon:

  • Holy Innovation Time: When you have just one day per month, make sure to make it count. The day starts at 8h00 and lasts until 17h30. Online or in the office, it doesn’t matter.

  • Holy Innovation Topic: At 8h00 we get together to write down the topic that each colleague decided to work on. We introduce the topic in 1 minute and commit to having a demo ready by 16h00.

  • Holy Innovation Trophy: At 16h00 it’s presentation time. Everyone shows off what they built or learned, preferably with an actual working demo. This is the perfect way to spread knowledge gained during the day. At the end we vote for the most impressive presentation. The winner gets a symbolic trophy.

In order to make this work, we put a lot of responsibility in the hands of our employees. They are in control during this day, and they determine how much they learn. This wouldn’t work with just any person, which is why we specifically look for the innovation spirit during our hiring process.

We look for colleagues that are eager to learn about the next big thing and keep improving their skills. An engineer who thinks the degree alone will keep him/her employed for 40 years does not fit our culture.

Not just the techies

Innovation is not just for technical colleagues. Others have massive benefits to gain as well. There’s thousands of tools on the market that improve your sales process, online marketing or streamline operations.

However, our kind of innovation culture is only interesting when every single employee is a massive value creator. The kind of employee that strives for efficiency and time savings. At Crodeon we take care of this by outsourcing and automating the easy and repetitive work as much as possible. As a result, sales, marketing and operations are domains where technology and innovation are a critical component.

Long term advantages

The advantages in the long term are clear. We keep our people highly skilled and engaged. Remember, we look for employees who get energized by learning new things, so this is a real fit. By the way many of the topics from these HIT-days have actually be used in our operations and products.

Peace of mind is another advantage. Most developers have a list in the back their head with things they want to try out some day. This becomes annoying when you’re almost certain that one of the topics on this list could improve your work, but you just don’t have time to dive into it.

However, the main advantage for us as founders is the innovation culture. Being sure that we build true high-tech products with the best possible people. This is definitely worth spending 5% of the company’s time on.

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