Training employees and managers is essential at any company but particularly for startups. Yet many avoid it because it seems too hard or expensive.
“A lot of companies think their employees are so smart that they require no training,” Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz writes in his recent book. “That’s silly.”
Horowitz told Quartz that two companies that do some of the best training are, Facebook, on the engineering side, and Twitter for management. (Andreessen Horowitz has invested in both companies)
As of 2007, the company didn’t really train people, Horowitz says.
“It caused a lot of misunderstandings in the product architecture, which caused performance issues, which caused a pretty large crisis in the company,” Horowitz says.
The following year, Facebook began a program led by engineer Andrew Bosworth called Facebook Bootcamp. It’s a seven week on-boarding program for new engineers and project managers. They’re immersed in the company’s code, and start working on projects that end up live on the site within a week of their start date.
But it’s not just about getting people up to speed, Bosworth wrote in 2009—the training emphasizes maintaining high standards, identifying internal leaders that are good at teaching, making sure people have mentors, and letting engineers learn by fixing real problems.
Uniquely, engineers aren’t hired for particular teams at Facebook. Bootcamp connects engineers with teams by exposing them to different parts of the organization. That way they can find a problem or project they like working on that also needs them.
“It’s amazing how productive new people are at that company very quickly,” Horowitz says.
Horowitz had a direct hand in the beginning of Twitter’s management training program. It began with a conversation between Horowitz and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in Sun Valley, Idaho shortly after he got the top job in 2010. Here’s how Horowitz remembers it:
When Dick Costolo took over, he took over from Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams. They’re both better managers now, but neither of them really knew anything about it then. They’re both, if you talk to them, fairly embarrassed about how they ran the company. You had a culture of management that was really dysfunctional.
I had a conversation with Dick and he said: “You know what really annoys me? We’ll sit in a meeting and all agree on something, then some managers will walk out and say to their people, ‘Well, here’s what got decided, but I don’t agree with it.’”
I said, “Yeah, that would annoy me. Have you trained them not to do that?”
And he said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “What is your management training like?”
“We don’t have management training.”
Well there’s only one way to fix that, you’ve got to tell managers what you want. Then, you’ve got to enforce it. Performance management without training isn’t worth anything. If you’re not training people, what benchmark are they performing against?
The management training program that resulted, taught by Costolo himself, is considered the best in Silicon Valley, Horowitz says. Costolo consulted with Horowitz on the curriculum, which was based on a similar class he taught at his company, Opsware.
The program teaches managers to set clear expectations for their employees, prevents them from “managing by trying to be liked,” and trains them to take an approach that’s uniquely suited to Twitter rather than transplanted from companies like Google.
Costolo’s leadership and the program have helped professionalize a somewhat chaotic company, Horowitz says, and were instrumental in helping Twitter transition from an interesting social network to a legitimate business.