Joel Spolsky on the 1 Thing Employees Most Want

It’s what Joel Spolsky, an expert on hiring for technology jobs in particular, says is what employees most care about.

Google’s trying it, but other, smaller, companies are too, he says — and there are lots of ways to accomplish it.

He spells it out below, in this clip from the most recent ERE Expo, in San Diego. About 3 1/2 minutes.

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11 Comments on “Joel Spolsky on the 1 Thing Employees Most Want

  1. Respectfully, I think this guy is full of baloney.

    I know I’ll draw heated fire here but if I had to choose ONE THING I’d choose MONEY.

    He’s obviously pandering to a bunch of recruiters AT A RECRUITER’S CONFERENCE and feeding them the pablum they want to hear.

    To believe him is swallowing the crap KoolAid companies puts out because (most of them)
    they don’t want to pay competitive wages.

    There’s no challenge to his message – and the sugar in the KoolAid (tell me what I want to hear!) only makes the message go down easier for recruiters.

    Okay, I can take it. Let me have it.

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer
    513 899 9628

  2. OK Maureen, I’ll take the bait – I disagree with you. BTW, I have enjoyed many of your articles on sourcing.
    I think Gen Y has a definite desire to find opportunities to continue learning and growing in their career. I have had many candidates over the years, in the 1-7 years of experience range, that are willing to move laterally or even take a small step back if they have the opportunity to learn something new that will advance their career later. I think these same people would love the opportunity to learn something new in short bursts like the speaker said, that may not be directly related to their role, but give them a new perspective on the company or industry.
    I agree though as people advance in their career, then yes, money will be most important. They would like the opportunity to learn also, but money will need to come with it.

  3. I agree with both of you. I read Maureen’s post before watching the video. When I saw the video my first thought was, “yes if you are of a certain generation, you want training and time to work on your own ideas/projects,etc”

    I just don’t buy into the thought that there is one size that fits all regarding what people want, within ANY generation or employee population. At various times in our life and career, we will ALL be motivated by different things.

  4. Maureen:

    I agree and I also disagree with you. I agree that learning is not number one but in the top 5. I disagree that money is even in the top 5. Yes money is important but I see 6 things before money in most cases. Some people will take the money over anything else but they usually won’t last.

    They are

    1. Great boss and coworker.
    2. Interesting work
    3. Learning, challenge, growth
    4. Family friendly environment. (I did not say work life balance.)
    5. Recognition

    If I was going to add a 6th it would be open and honest communications.

  5. As Patsy Cline said in “Sweet Dreams:
    “Well people in hell want ice water – that don’t mean they get it.”


    The Atlantic Home Tuesday, June 5, 2012
    53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?
    By Jordan Weissmann
    Apr 23 2012, 3:06 PM ET 328

    A college diploma isn’t worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.


    More than half of America’s recent college graduates are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, the Associated Press reported this weekend. The story would seem to be more evidence that, regardless of your education, the wake of the Great Recession has been a terrible time to be young and hunting for work.

    But are we really becoming another Greece or Spain, a wasteland of opportunity for anybody under the age of 25? Not quite. What the new statistics really tell us about is the changing nature, and value, of higher education.

    First, here’s the nut of the AP’s findings, which it derived with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

    About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

    Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

    These numbers are hard to fathom, and the more you compare them to other measures of unemployment, the more bizarre they seem. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the data the AP was working with. But their analysis implies that about a quarter of the post-collegiate population is outright unemployed. By comparison, in December 2011, only a fifth of 16 to 19-year-old Americans couldn’t get work. Meanwhile, according to the OECD, just 18.4 percent of all Americans under the age of 25 were unemployed in 2010. By those measures, college grads are actually faring worse in the job market than the overall youth population. They’re also suffering terribly compared to the older college-educated populace, which has an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.

    It’s hard to imagine why any of this might be, other than that some recent grads may simply not be willing to take the low level jobs available to them.

    On the other hand, many obviously are. As the AP notes, recent graduates are now more likely to work as “waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined.” This is a problem for any number of reasons, but here are two big ones: First, a degree is more expensive than ever, and students are piling on debt to finance their educations. It’s much harder to pay back loans while working for tips at Buffalo Wild Wings than when you have a decent office job. Second, when college graduates take a low-paid, low-skill job, they’re probably displacing a less educated worker, For every underemployed college degree holder, there’s a decent chance someone with just a high school diploma is out of work entirely.

    So is a college education simply less valuable than in the past? In some respects, yes. According to the Census, the number of Americans under the age of 25 with at least a bachelor’s degree has grown 38 percent since 2000. Not nearly enough jobs have been created to accommodate them, which has resulted in falling wages for young college graduates in the past decade, as well as the employment problems we’re now seeing.

    That said, not all degrees are created equal. The AP reports that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates. You know that old saw about how college is just about getting a fancy piece of paper? Not true. For an education to be worth anything these days, it needs to impart skills.

    When there were fewer graduates, a generic college degree used to be a valuable credential. Now that the market is flooded, diplomas count less, and specific skills count more. This means that, in many instances, associates and technical degrees may be more financially valuable than a liberal arts degree. After all, some of the fastest growing job categories are expected to be in so-called “middle-skill” positions such as nursing, which do not require a full, four-year education. It’s one more sign that, for people seeking to fix America’s employment picture, “college for all” is the wrong mantra. We need to be talking about “skills for all” instead.

  6. I don’t think he is full of Baloney and I do think Maureen has a pretty good grip on reality after all she grapples with it every day as do I. Often a great candidate (or several) with excellent skills and drivers slips away just because an employer will not engage in the money conversation. A candidate may find that a number of other factors influence their decision to move however if the money isn’t industry competitive you have lost them. Even if it is the same it will not meet his ego needs and if it leaves him behind his peers in the industry his family will have some say in the decision.

  7. Actually, as a software engineer, I would say Joel is spot-on. There are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about what he’s saying:

    1. He’s focused on hiring THE best talent available and very aggressively filters people out (see his other writings, particularly on his blog or his book). He will pass on outstanding candidates to hire only the absolute best.
    2. He hires software engineers. Software engineers are paid very well.

    Given the above two factors, pay is a bar to entry. He makes no qualms about paying well. Aside from that, beyond a certain pay rate every increase is less meaningful. Every top engineer I know has the mindset of seeking the most challenging, meaningful work they can find with people they love working with. They have no desire to “settle” into a position where they can just float along. Those who do settle may be excellent engineers, but they’re no longer top engineers.

    Regardless of where software engineers fall in a stack rank, almost all of those I know are willing to take a pay cut to work on bigger challenges, have larger scope, etc. It really is all about learning, challenging oneself, growing, and doing good by one’s personal values. The few who are money-seekers tend to be less experienced and/or have some personal need that requires the income.

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