The true measure of a great job isn't in the perks.


I want to take a minute to talk about something I call, "effective employment".

What do I mean by "effective employment"? What does it mean to be "effectively employed"? I'll admit that effectiveness is a decidedly subjective measurement but perhaps you can journey with me on what I believe "effective employment" looks like.

To understand the idea of effective employment it is first necessary to understand what it is not. One of the most peculiar things about working in the software industry is the 'benefits' that accompany our jobs. Things like catering, massages, scooters, free drinks or free beer are decidedly popular in the industry. I find this especially apparent in the startup world -most likely do to the lack of more traditional market appeal and a need to attract talent- but even if you aren't looking there specifically you will still find this trend very prevalent.

I draw attention to 'benefits' because it's helpful in constructing the case surrounding "effective employment". If one thing is apparent with the increase in benefits and perks, it's that a solid job with opportunity for growth is no longer sufficient to get people interested in a given position. The solution? According to the industry, kick it up a level and start throwing "cool things" at people. When that stops working, throw some more at them. Rinse, repeat. Could the materialistic-whiz-bang culture we live in have any correlation to this trend? I digress.

Cause withstanding, more and more often companies tout their long lists of benefits and perks. Likewise many developers are following suit by defining themselves by how many or how luxurious their benefits packages are. Again, I ask myself why the redefinition? What caused us to go from a culture pleased with a hard day's work at an honest job to one where whoever has the most cool things wins? That answer is larger than a single blog post but I think that one reason the definition has changed is because benefits and perks are easy to highlight as they are generally tangible and or sellable. I can point to the fridge full of beer or the game room complete with a complete retro arcade and "show" you how great it is to work for company X. It's harder for me to sell you on the great career path or the enjoyment of working on something fulfilling. Companies are looking for an edge to recruit talent and benefits have become a leverage point.

The trouble with this approach is that it is almost always the intangibles that really matter.

So to reiterate: effective employment is not what? It isn't great perks or great location. It's not working on some new popular thing. It's not working for the new powerhouse in town. It's not the technology stack and it's not your MacBook Pro. These things can be supportive to effective employment but they don't define it. Without a solid foundation to rally around these things just become unappreciated gestures from a mediocre -or worse- place to work. They don't convince your employees to recruit for their teams and they certainly don't convince them to stay for the long run.

Effective employment is something much more significant than all the perks. I believe it is a culmination of that buzzword 'culture' coupled with a fervent desire to work and accomplish something worthwhile. culture isn't anything without a purpose and purpose languishes without a culture to support it. These ideas are simply not mutually exclusive and must be evaluated as part of a bigger equation for success.

So what are you doing about effective employment? If you're an employee, what are you doing to make your workplace better? Do you try your best to be positive? Do you encourage others instead of tearing them down? Do you give people the benefit of the doubt before coming to a conclusion about their character or their effectiveness? Or maybe you are an employer or manager? What are you doing to ensure people are satisfied and challenged with their work? Are you micromanaging your knowledge workers or giving them the freedom and atonony they crave? Are you encouraging positivity in the workplace? Are you encouraging a sustainable work life balance? Are you invested in your employees lives?

It's easy to talk about this stuff but what are you doing to cause action? Start small. Start at your personal level and encourage others to follow. If you aren't truly satisfied with the kind of work you do then maybe now is the time to start looking elsewhere for something you can get behind. Whatever your conclusion, change is possible. As they say, "a rising tide raises all ships". Be the tide of change and cultivate effective employment today.