I hope to one day look back at this and smile in the knowledge that the following principles and perks are taken for granted. I could go further than I have below, but I don’t want to sell an unobtainable utopia.
All of the ideas below are, in my opinion, entirely feasible given societal and economic constraints. In fact, many of them would enhance the things that businesses seek most: productivity and ingenuity.
For me, the ideal company:
Wants to improve the human condition and/or the world: For me, this is very important. If I am part of an endeavour and there is no central theme of ‘wanting better’ for the world and humanity then I don’t see how that can implicitly motivate me. I also would treasure an endeavour that is not blind from the real problems of today, and that maintains a universal perspective.
Values you but doesn’t seek to own you: I don’t want to be owned. I want to explore endeavours left and right and I don’t want to be limited by a contract that declares ownership over every scrap of IP I produce. If I am given such a freedom then I will be compelled to do my best work.
Wants you to become a better person: I want the owner or founder to realise that he or she is not a superstar of human existence, but merely yet another schmuck looking to actualise his desires. He should realise that every person beneath him is just him by any other name. He should seek for his employees to one day actualise their desires, whether that be in the form of entrepreneurialism, art, athletics or otherwise. And so he offers them every opportunity to move upward and beyond. He doesn’t limit their potential with corporate shackles and the fear of redundancy.
Other essential qualities:
(All the good things)
- Honesty in how they do business and deal with people.
- Transparency in the best and worst of times, internally and externally.
- Sincerity in their efforts to affect positive change.
- Humility, even in success.
- Compassion for living things.
As clichéd as these virtues may seem they are, in my opinion, worth insisting upon.
So, here, in the hope of such a place one day existing, I’m going to describe a fictional company and what their “careers” page might look like:
“Working for us”
We hire people that we trust. We hope that you will come to trust us too. And we’re not talking about hand-holding corporate trust where we might let you make your own coffee or even your own estimates. We mean actual trust. It takes a long time to reach that level of trust and we’re okay with that.
We will, to the best of our financial abilities, pay you what you need to take care of “all the stuff”. The home. The kids. The insurance. The healthcare. The “life”. We know that if you don’t have all that stuff taken care of you’ll always be worrying about it. We’ll be up-front about our means during the process.
You should succeed when we succeed so we also offer reasonable term vesting stock options. In addition we offer interpersonal bonuses and charitable-gift-matching.
We want our work to implicitly motivate you. We’re trying to solve problems. We need you to be passionate about our problems. If you’re not then we want you to find something that you are passionate about, and then do that instead. The world needs more people who love what they do.
How we hire
Our hiring process is a conversation; a two-way street. We get to know you as you get to know us. We won’t ask you quiz-like questions, awaiting streams of buzzwords to come forth. We care about you as a person. What drives you? What do you deem worthwhile? How do you abstractly solve problems?
We want to get to know you, as a person, not as a sellable commodity or instrument of society. We seek people that share our values and want to improve themselves and the world surrounding them. We want to be able to work alongside you so that both you and us can become the epitomes of our truest and most virtuous aspirations.
Holidays / Leave
You’ll have unlimited paid holidays. Provided you give sufficient notice, you can disappear to Paris for a fortnight or lounge for a day or two in front of the TV. We only hire people that we trust with this power.
We provide paid maternity and paternity leave. We’re also flexible with your familial arrangements and will do our best to facilitate your life and other obligations.
When you work
We offer incentives for the people that work less than a 40 hour week on our endeavour. We don’t want you to feel pressured to work too much.
We reward work you’re doing outside of our endeavour, even commercial side-projects. In fact we will help incubate a startup you’re thinking of pursuing. It is in our interest to facilitate your full potential.
You’ll get flexible working hours and environments. You decide when you come in and when you leave.
Where you work
We have open-space office environments and private office space. If you’d like a private office to call your own, we can arrange that. You are free to coordinate your ‘ideal’ workspace with your team.
We have a number of small offices in different locations, each with a particular charm and decor. It’s up to you where you work and for how long you stay in a particular area.
There’s always healthy snacks available. We would prefer for you to head home and take an afternoon nap instead of feasting on copious caffeine after lunch just to reach some arbitrary deadline.
There’s an overflowing library of technical books and novels alike. If you’d like us to buy a new book for the library, just ask.
There are no in-house catering facilities, but we will pay for your meals if you’d like. We want you to explore the environment around you instead of the office becoming your bubble of existence. So feel free to take a long lunch in the city or pop home for a bite. Nobody is watching the clock waiting for you to return from lunch at a specific time.
How we ship
Deadlines, iterations, project management are all dependent on your project. We foster paradigms but do not insist on them. What works for one project or team may not work for another.
We give you a starting budget of £3k to buy your computer, peripherals and any software we don’t have existing licenses for. We realise that you need the right tools to do your best work.
We give you all the described perks ‘off the bat’. We realise that if you take advantage then we’ve made the wrong hiring decision, and that’s our on our back.
You are not hired to a specific role. We’ll start you off where you’re best suited but if you become bored you can feel free to move to another part of our endeavour. You can even help out in the kitchen. It’s up to you.
People & Culture
We see culture as the emanation of collective individualities. Whatever culture we arrive it, it’ll be in the people, not in the stylish decor of the office or the allure of the company perks.
We seek to embrace everyone’s differences and the uniqueness that each new person brings to the collective. We want to create a workplace and paradigms that do not stifle, but foster, an atmosphere of friendliness, productivity and virtue.
(End of fictional job description)
Me too. In fact, this is something that is pressing a lot on our minds over at Storygami, the interactive video startup that I’m a part of. I’ve never been such an integral part of a company before and so my mind is abuzz with “what that means” and perhaps even, how I can do the things I want to see others doing. At Storygami, we would love the opportunity to strike down the sacred cows of corporate servitude and process, and in their absence instil a sense of open-mindedness and our ever-evolving virtues.
If you’re starting an endeavour you should give great thought to the importance of facilitating great work from the people you work with, and further, creating a place where great people can self-actualise freely.
That’s humans for you. We feel. We touch. We have emotions. The corporate world has long been stained with an endemic aversion to all things human. And that, in my opinion, is a problem.