In our Inspiring Digital Employers series, we’re bringing you some of our 300+ business clients from 4 countries that we find especially inspiring as employers. Next to big and household names, we introduce you to maybe lesser-known and smaller businesses that are equally amazing workplaces in their own way.
Our partners inspire us not only to become a better employer ourselves, but also to contribute to their success with great new tech colleagues, in line with their business needs and matching their corporate culture. We’re proud to be their tech training and hiring partners, and happy to connect them with Codecooler graduates, the best tech juniors on the market.
Meet Com-Forth, a Hungary-based, family-owned small business building innovative, industrial digital solutions for production companies. Com-Forth has been on the market for 30 years now. They have always put people in front of technology, both as a business partner and as an employer. They are very conscious about not wanting to grow bigger, also to maintain a human-centred company culture. We’ve sat down with their CEO, Péter Bóna.
Péter, please introduce your company to us. What is Com-Forth like as a workplace?
Com-Forth is a small and focused business delivering industrial software. We provide production companies with tailor-made, innovative digital solutions for production process data collection, analytics, and visualisation, to improve their effectiveness and productivity. We’re also value-added distributors of industrial digital products such as industrial data acquisition, communication and security.
Com-Forth is a human-centred company, and this is not just a nice-sounding hiring cliché in our case. We really mean it.
We are not a big multinational, where you’re sometimes just a cog in the machine, or a cool start-up, where you must be over-the-top busy all the time.
Instead, we’re a place where you are not „used”, or burnt out quickly, but welcomed and appreciated, with a community that is truly a second family for our colleagues.
We look out for our colleagues, and we always look for the „good people”. Not even in the sense of a good worker, but more like people matching our culture.
If you work for us, then you have your space and freedom to do your work the way and at the time you want to.
And if you’re a person that can live with this space and freedom, not requiring too much hand-holding, then it’s a good start.
You also must get on with everybody else working here. We’re a small company, and we make big decisions together, so it’s important that there is no substantial tension in the team. It’s a young team, doing innovative projects, in a digital environment, with a focus on people.
We find that most developers appreciate having the freedom to decide not only when and where they work from, but also how and in what digital framework. We provide this freedom and „only” ask you in return to live well with it.
How important are digital skills and talent for your business?
Being a digital software provider, 15 of our 24 colleagues (26 with 2 on maternity-leave) in total are developers. We tend to grow organically, meaning when we have more projects, we adjust the team. On the other hand, we’re very conscious about not growing too big, to maintain a family-like vibe in our small organisation.
Just recently, we’ve grown and now have 4 Codecoolers in our team already. We’re very happy with them.
As I said earlier, we hire good people, matching our culture and sharing our values. In terms of hard skills, we look for professionals knowledgeable in using and building MS SQL databases, and programming in C# and ASP.NET Core for back end and a web-based front end with Angular.
But I think there is not a single colleague in our team doing exactly the thing we’ve hired them to do initially. This is a place where you can keep on learning new things and taking on projects that inspire you.
You can hear about the growing digital talent gap everywhere. How does it affect you?
Not much, actually. I might not be super popular with this opinion, but I tend to agree with Simon Sinek in this question. Sinek says that if you’re a good employer, then you can keep and find the people you need in your organisation.
I don’t think there’s a real shortage on the market. If you look closely enough, you can find great people. The real challenge is keeping them.
At Com-Forth, employee churn is close to 0%. We have some colleagues who have been with us for around 20 years now. I remember somebody left during the probation period because we were not a good match on a cultural level, but that was about 7 years ago. You must make an effort to hire well and keep the good people.
According to Gartner, the average cost of a leaving colleague is about 19k USD. Including the cost of lower and lost productivity, exit, recruitment, onboarding, everything. It’s expensive to let a colleague go, still, so few companies make a real effort to prevent it.
Employees have always been exploited everywhere. Now they’re turning the power-game around, or rather starting to demand respect and a fair deal from employers.
So I’m not surprised about The Great Resignation trend at all. But I think this creates a better, healthier setup, teaches you patience as an employer and motivates you to value what you have.
By the way, it’s also not true that young people today don’t want to work, just make money, or that they don’t have discipline, just demands. Not true at all. We have Z gen colleagues, one of them was born in 2001. They are motivated and have a hard-working attitude, they just don’t like close control and boundaries.
Our colleagues, including young ones, are listened to, and they can work in a flexible setup. Say, from Greece for a couple of weeks, where they can kitesurf a few hours at the end of an 8-hour workday. (True story by the way.) Technology enables us, we trust our people, so why not?
We at Com-Forth have been used to working in a flexible, hybrid setup in the last 5 or 6 years, with everyone having the option to work from home if they felt like it. So the restrictions coming with the pandemic didn’t take us off-guard, we just continued work more or less the way we used to. We’re not afraid of flexibility, if it helps our colleagues and doesn’t hurt productivity.
We want good people to work for us, so we must be a good employer. Mediocre is not good enough, people don’t settle for mediocre anymore.
And I’m actually glad to see that.
How do you grow the digital skillset of your organisation? Via hiring, training, both, or some other way?
As I mentioned earlier, we sometimes hire new tech colleagues to keep up with the growing number of our projects. We just hired our 4th Codecooler last October. But we don’t want to grow too big, so we don’t hire all the time.
As for training, we find that our developers prefer self-learning through new projects and innovation, as well as learning from each other. And we support that. Training is an option, too, but we mainly see colleagues interested in soft skill courses.
Why did you choose to partner up with Codecool?
When we were first contacted by Codecool, we were not hiring. But one day, Angi, our account manager from Codecool called me saying that she found a graduate for us that she thinks matches our needs and culture. We checked, and it was true. We immediately hired this Codecooler, even though we were not looking for anyone, because she was such a great match. The exact person we dreamt of having in our team.
This was only possible because our account manager listened to us, understood who we were, and didn’t come back to us with a compromising offer to waste our time.
She waited until she found a Codecooler who was perfect for us, and then gave me a call. I appreciated this so much and didn’t get disappointed in Angi or Codecool ever since.
How do you see Codecoolers?
I find Codecooler graduates very motivated. After „checking out” from the world of work for a year for the time of their Full-Stack Developer Course, they can’t wait to get to work. I think Codecool is such a big commitment with the intensive, full-time, one-year training, that graduates appreciate the opportunity of working on innovative projects in their first tech jobs afterwards.
Codecool is not easy, and by the end, graduates know a lot. They don’t know everything, but you can’t learn everything in 5 years either. What’s even better, at Codecool you learn to learn, and to love to learn.
Codecoolers are good people, motivated and skilled, and these things matter to me.
What local and global trends do you see impacting your business today?
One is Total Experience, which makes a shift from a technology-centric approach to a human-centric one in digital development. This is not a new trend, but it’s as strong as ever, and very relevant for our business.
Another one is the evolution of low-code platforms, and other tools making software development easier, thus democratising programming. You don’t need advanced technical skills to create simple solutions anymore. You still need those for the complex stuff, but not for the basics.
Then there is the citizen data scientist trend – similarly democratising the field of data analysis. It allows colleagues with basic analytical skills to perform advanced analytics with the help of smart technology.
This brings us to Industry 5.0, which focuses on the interaction between humans and machines. With Industry 4.0, industrial production is going through a digital transformation. It brings data-driven decision-making to factories, artificial intelligence controlling processes, all focused on and driven by technology. With Industry 5.0, people are now in the centre, making decisions. This is a major paradigm shift; technology is not the key anymore, but people.
In the past, if you wanted to go digital, you tried to go along with a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) responsible for digitalisation. Today everybody needs to go digital, meaning every single person must use, or sometimes even develop technology. Everybody must change, which is hard, but the above-mentioned low code and citizen data scientist solutions can help.
And last but not least, sustainability and caring about the planet, making tech helps us living in better conditions in the coming decades, is another trend I’m glad to see gaining ground – also as a human being.
What’s your long-term digital vision for your company?
I believe in sustainable growth and continuous innovation in business, too, even at the expense of short-term profit. I’m determined to create automation that is used for good.
Automation should add much more value than just cost cut. It should take over those jobs that would be better be done by machines (like visual inspection at the end of a production line, but there are many others that burn people out quickly).
Then it’s important to give better work to these people, in which they can add more value.
We want to be the company doing these „automation for good” type of projects, being kind of a human-centric oasis in a technology-driven industry – with a strong culture, strong principles, and the guts to say „no”, when necessary.
How do you see our shared digital future?
What I see is that right now we’re going from one extreme to another by rushing from complete digital illiteracy towards a fully virtual lifestyle.
I think we’ll find a balance only when we start valuing traditional interactions again, like personal meetings, shaking hands, or coming together at conferences.
Getting interested in each other again, and giving each other time not just online, but over a cup of coffee. I think these things will gain more value soon. Anyway, even classic, hard-copy book sales surged after the pandemic started.
I think we need analogue at least as much as we need digital in our lives. And I think we’ll find a natural and liveable balance eventually. We’ll use machines for good, not end up in a Matrix, but rather thrive as human beings in the age of digital.