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Re: On Finding, Hiring, Inspiring and Keeping

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Apr 09, 2006 at 18:00 UTC ( #542159=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to On Finding, Hiring, Inspiring and Keeping

In my career, there are only two (maybe three) places that I would fight to continue working at. The top is my current job. Some of the perks:
  • The company is completely virtual. When we all get together, we do so in the owner's basement.
  • We set our own work hours. If I need to take a kid to the doctor, I take the kid to the doctor. If I'm burnt out, I take the afternoon off. This isn't allowed - this is required.
  • When I don't have a deadline for work, I am expected to be working on OSS projects, preferably those that we will be able to use in future projects. This includes articles and networking with others.
  • Complete trust. I didn't meet my coworkers until I'd been working for the company for over three months.

Now, we keep things great because the only people hired are those that will work well with every other developer. Or, put another way, every developer has right of veto over a prospective hire. This ensures that everyone will be able to work with everyone else, and that everyone will want to work with everyone else.

The second-best place I've worked was at Motorola. I think that it was more the team than the company. I was trusted to do my job. I had veto power over releases. No-one sat around and told me how to dress. In other words, I was treated like an adult. Too many times, companies feel that they have to treat their employees like children. If you look for childish behavior, you will find it.

Now, this means that about 70% of all prospective employees will not work out in your company, and you have to be willing to be extremely selective in hiring. Yes, you could fire people after trying them out, but that gets to be really disruptive over time. Much better to lose a qualified candidate than to fire an unqualified one. If your company is a good place to work, qualified candidates will find you.

My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
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Re^2: On Finding, Hiring, Inspiring and Keeping
by apotheon (Deacon) on Apr 11, 2006 at 23:13 UTC

    I think your reply deserves a spotlight. By holding up your employment situation as an example, you've at least cursorily defined most of what makes a good tech employer to a T. One of the key ingredients, I think, is that the employer makes learning new things a desirable activity for its employees and fosters that. There are few ways to do this that compare with the "work on open source software projects when you're not on deadlines" approach. I think that really the most valuable aspect of Google's 20% time isn't the new projects and "products" that employees generate, either: it's the fact that it fosters, encourages, and supports learning — and makes that learning desirable to the employees in a way that "paid training" and similarly institutionalized corporate initiatives don't.

    Bleeding edge technical industries, which covers almost everything related to computers these days, thrive on new knowledge. The core issue of this entire discussion is that tech employers need to harness that new knowledge phenomenon. The things to look for are people who learn about the field on their own time because they like it, because they want to know new things, and because the way they're wired you couldn't get them to stop learning and tinkering short of inducing burn-out. The things to do involve providing inducements and environments encouraging that learning, and the things to avoid doing are those stultifying bureaucratic and buzzword-compliant procedural things that contribute to burn-out and a feeling of oppression.

    Autonomy is really one of the key ingredients to this. The only other such that comes to mind is creating a work environment where the employees don't have to worry about anything they're not getting paid to do. If you're working sixteen hour days to meet a deadline in an office building, for instance, the employer needs to find ways to address concerns like childcare, hot meals, and the like, so that the employees don't have to, and if you're a reasonably intelligent employee that was worth hiring in the first place the management should trust you to know what you're doing, be able to organize your own time, and be able to turn whatever interest grabs your attention into a benefit to the company, even if the primary benefit of it is just keeping you sharp.

    Unfortunately, American corporate culture is pretty much diametrically opposed to these characteristics of a work environment that are most conducive to acquiring, keeping, and improving on quality employees.

    print substr("Just another Perl hacker", 0, -2);
    - apotheon
    CopyWrite Chad Perrin

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