What it takes to turn a group of people into great colleagues

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At Aviva Solutions, we have a unique tradition to celebrate our annual anniversary in some foreign city or at a warm beach in the south of Europe. During such a weekend, you're free to enjoy the local culture, go shopping in the local area or just relax at a terrace or the beach. Next to being a great company to work for, that on itself is a privilege that I'm looking forward to every year. Some people may think that we're being spoiled or that we're a bunch of expensive overpaid consultants for which our clients pay the price. But when they say or think something like that, I'm pretty sure they miss the point.


Sure, it is a privilege working for this company and everybody loves those annual trips. However, the most important reason why my employer is doing this is because it helps building a company were people really learn to know each other. We're with 50 people from all over the country (we have offices in Eindhoven and near Leiden) and about half works in the office or from home, whereas the other half is usually working full-time at a client's office. So, other than a couple of knowledge sharing evening and our bi-yearly formal meet-ups, they don't see each other that often. Being able to enjoy a long informal weekend to learn each other's skills, interests and personality is a very efficient way of building bridges within your company. That's why such weekends have a couple of mandatory parts such as dinner or an occasional organized activity or boat trip. In my opinion, such a weekend binds the people together. It makes them want to work together.

As an example how well this worked before, I can remember how we went through the first two years with 10-15 senior developers. Within the same building, there was another small company with young, relatively inexperienced .NET developers. At some point, Aviva Solutions decided to take over that company and merge those developers into our group. Since I did a couple of tech sessions for that group before, I knew most of the boys and girls. But since Aviva Solutions started off with the idea of only hiring very experienced people, you could see how these groups were miles apart on all levels…until we travelled to Mallorca… People discovered that they had common interests and hobbies, lived in the same area, or had the same acquaintances. I don’t have to explain that after that weekend we were one big group of happy developers.


I also remember working for a prior employer in the Eindhoven region who equally valued their people. Since that company helped me boost my career as a software developer I have a lot to be grateful for. And I sure have some precious memories from that time. I still keep in touch with a quite a few of those colleagues. However, during most of the four years, I was subcontracted at Philips Medical Systems in a department with about 150 .NET and C++ developers. Even though that employer was very dear to me, when I left to move to The Hague area, my departure party at Philips involved 100+ people, a speech by the department manager, and many gifts from my Philips colleagues. After saying goodbye with a tear, I dropped my laptop, phone and entry card at my own employer, shook some hands, and left without a blink…

My point? Well, I don't have to repeat how great of a company Aviva Solutions is (and that we're still looking for passionate young people). But I hope you see the power of such a weekend away and how it can turn a group of employees into a band of brothers (and sisters)…

So what do you think? Do you agree that such an initiative is a good idea for a company to do? Do you know of any other or better ideas? Do you want to share what your company is doing to make it unique? Let me know by commenting below. Oh and follow me at @ddoomen to get regular updates on my everlasting quest for better solutions.


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