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Never Have the “What Would It Take to Keep You Here?” Conversation (moz.com)
171 points by sharkweek 1758 days ago | hide | past | web | 92 comments | favorite

I think it's first worth having policies that recognize the modern knowledge worker. Unlimited vacation, hardware budgets, a results-only work environment, optional meetings. No company bullshit. Etc. That way folks won't go "maybe a vacation will help" - because you've already done it.

Of course, that is just removing roadblocks. That's not an active measure. You should be having weekly one on ones with all direct reports (and so on up and down the chain). Rarely when a coworker quits is it completely unexpected. At some point a switch is flipped from "not going to even consider it" to "sure, I'll talk to recruiters." And then the clock starts ticking. In some ways, the organization has already lost if it got to that point.

Raises and titles are not the only thing that drives people; I'd probably argue that's the worst sort of extrinsic motivation. If a bigger title is all that keeps someone working there, you've already failed. As a manager it's your job to know what motivates your people and help get them there accordingly.

> Unlimited vacation, hardware budgets, a results-only work environment, optional meetings. No company bullshit.

Aside: I've become convinced unlimited vacation policies are a bad idea at scale. Everywhere I've seen them applied, they lead to less vacationing for the people who need it most: the eternally stressed and overworked who feel like the world will end in their absence or that they will get dinged or plain fired in their next performance review if they're not always in the office. You don't need to force people to take a vacation, but the old system of assigning them a fixed number of yearly days with some sort of limited rollover strikes a good balance I see no reason to upset. A system based on firm expectations can still accommodate exceptional events like honeymoons.

Unlimited vacation policies are a bad idea even on the small scale. Even on our team of 5, some of us sucked at taking time off. Those of us who didn't suck at taking time off sucked at not feeling guilty about it!

I'm still thinking about the side effects of a "Paid Paid Vacation" policy. That is, instead of getting N weeks of paid time off, you get $X per week of vacation used, up to some limit.

That's actually a pretty good idea.

> You don't need to force people to take a vacation

Actually, you do. People who don't take vacations are worse at their jobs, full stop.

It's the same as people who continually put in overtime every week of the year - you're sacrificing productivity for the illusion of effort.

Source? I'm asking because we've had this discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4623289 and there doesn't seem to be any strong support for your conclusion.

Have you never burned out?

People need to live their lives. I don't see much the point in creating companies where people can't be happy.

I don't see much the point in creating companies where people can't be happy.

The point is typically getting rich. A worker-happiness-focused culture just isn't contemporary mindset. Hopefully in a century or two things will shift towards worker-centric environment, but I can't think of any incentive for businesses to take that policy very seriously.

(We love to tell ourselves that there are a bunch of reasons to take it seriously -- and there are. But if you think objectively and honestly about it from a bottom-line standpoint, which is the standpoint most businesses think about, then the policies don't matter much since all you care about is the bottom line anyway. And even if you don't now, you will at scale.)

>The point is typically getting rich.

No, it's not. The point is to be in Control Of Your Own Destiny, and be wealthier. If your goal from the outset is to GET RICH then that's very nice and ambitious of you but that's a) unlikely to happen and b) outside of a few lottery type scenarios you still have to work in that environment for 5+ years before you "cash out".

You still have to live and enjoy life within that timeframe.

>I can't think of any incentive for businesses to take that policy very seriously.

For knowledge workers, more productive employees, higher retention rates.

A friend of mine owns the Best Company To Work For. It's incredible to see her hiring process work, because people walk in and look the place up and down and and go "Holy shit yes I want to work here".

On the flipside, no one has left voluntarily in three years - which I think in web-developer years is a small eternity.

Plus, you get the karmic benefit of not being an asshole.

Re: Vacations, the place I work uses a combination of both, which seems to work out pretty well - everyone gets their yearly (competitive) fixed amount with some rollover (which is mostly for accounting purposes, so the accountants can quantify the liability of outstanding vacation days), and if you want to take more, then...OK.

The yearly fixed amount is good for anchoring/expectations-setting. It's a way of publicly saying the amount that people "should" take, and it means that for people who are worried that taking vacations will come back to haunt them in a review (which is a separate problem), they've got a company-sanctioned minimum.

For people who want to do more ROWE-style and take more vacation, that's OK too. Management is on-board with it, and the culture is there. For some people, this means working their ass off for a few months, and then going to South America for two months and working two days a week remotely. Some people "work from home" every other Friday, when they're really working for two hours on a plane or a train while they go see their significant others in different cities for a full weekend. We have one guy who just doesn't like Wednesdays, never comes on in on them, and gets his shit done in the other four days.

Edit: Mistyped the significant-other example; meant to say that they do that on Fridays so that they can get to wherever they're going for dinner on Friday nights.

One thing Rand's company does is reimburse vacation expenses (up to $3k per year) which is use it or lose it. It is an extra bit of incentive to take a vacation.

See bullet point #2 (page down) with more detail, the thinking behind it and how they got the idea from another company http://moz.com/rand/keeping-amazing-people-on-the-team/

I don't work there, but I know several people who do -- outside of great salary/vacation policies, they have pretty great fringe benefits

They've also won numerous awards for being one of the best places to work in Seattle (http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/best-places-to-w...)

It's definitely a difficult cultural thing to balance, but if you're conscious of the delicacy required there are definitely ways to mitigate it. I worked at a large 'startup' (>1000 employees) that had an 'unlimited vacation' policy. One way they managed it was that at their quarterly company-wide meetings, they would give out a 'high performer' award to a few individuals that was basically them being told to take a vacation. The fine print was essentially "here's a few thousand bucks, but you can only use it on vacation-related expenses".

We have unlimited vacation at our small startup and to be the counter example it's worked out well for us - we all take a healthy amount. I realize company environments differ though.

I read an interesting idea to help prevent the guilt problem - have a minimum number of required vacation days in addition to an unlimited ceiling.

There is no such thing as a policy that can replace personal interaction with one's manager, a good rapport between coworkers, and good self-management on the worker's part.

Perks or vacation quantities really have little to do with it.

This. Free lunches and "unlimited" vacation don't increase job satisfaction when you haven't seen your manager in months, your coworkers are yelling and screaming at each other, and you stop using vacation time because you're still expected to be within arm's reach of an Internet-connected device to answer e-mails when you're not in the office. (Yes, that's experience talking.)

As a manager it's your job to know what motivates your people and help get them there accordingly.

And keep them motivated, all the time, every day, every week, which you imply in the previous paragraph but I feel needs to be repeated explicitly.

I recently just accepted a new job which is better for a variety of reasons, but there really was no reason I should have been looking for a new job given what I was doing at the time I resigned. I had sent my resume out months ago when my now former team started disbanding during a shakeup, leaving me as the only developer on the team. The implications of having a development team with no developers should be obvious.

> If a bigger title is all that keeps someone working there, you've already failed.

Remember there are a lot of implicit benefits in a bigger title that can really make your job more bearable. For example in large organizations where other people tend to treat you based on your title.

A "Senior Architect" or something is more likely to get a single office, more likely to get his hardware purchases approved, and his opinions are less likely to be dismissed off-hand when discussing integration details with other offices.

I'm not too fussed about having unlimited holidays but when I want to book 3 weeks in a row, don't give me that "well, OK, just this time" kind of response.

Edit: fix typo

When someone says it's about the money, it's never about the money.

So in order to prevent the "I have a better offer" discussion, you have to innoculate your people ahead of time. Make them immune to better offers by making them unavailable to those who would make them.

Find out what really motivates each person and engineer the "perfect job description" for them:

  - meaningful work
  - quality working conditions
  - proper work/life balance
  - appropriate compensation / benefits
  - a well-defined mutually agreed upon future career path
  - proper recognition
  - congruent culture (work mates)
Make it so that people love coming to work. It's not that hard if you really want to.

Do that and you will never lose them. If you can't (or won't), then they were never really yours in the first place.

You wrote: > When someone says it's about the money, it's never about the money.

Sometimes, it's about the money.

I recognize this isn't a normal experience, but I spent a year and a half working on a team where I made 26k/yr while other team members made 80-120k/yr. There were some complicating factors (it was a state legislature, and I didn't have a college degree), but even localized, 26k for my skillset (web development focusing on open source mapping technology) was unreasonable.

When I left, it was definitely about the money. I was very clear that it was about the money. If somebody said, "Money aside, what's really bothering you?" I'm not sure my then 23-year-old-self could have managed to be civil.

Been there, lived that. Salary issue was addressed immediately once I had a competing offer. But unfortunately, in my experience, without that poker chip in your hand, it's all bluster.

As much as people say to never ever ever ever accept the counteroffer, doing so IMO is the ideal black spherical cow of salary negotiations. In my case, the long-term benefits of the project I was on were worth accepting the counteroffer and I have no regrets about doing so. Your mileage may vary.

In general, every year I talk to a couple potential employers to insure I have a good sense of my market value to prevent incidents like this from ever blindsiding me again.

My last company had some pretty interesting work, but a lot of people started looking to leave or left due to money. I think everyone who left got at least a 25% increase in pay leaving.

At the same time, a lot of people didn't leave because the work was interesting and their peers were all good to work with.

When a company doesn't give meaningful raises for 5 years, people will start leaving.

I wish people would realize that absolutes are almost never correct. Sometimes it is about the money. You think people are never horribly underpaid in a job that they otherwise like?

Just to add a corroborating data point here: I left a job I loved because I was underpaid. There were extenuating circumstances and my manager's hands were tied, but when an offer for 75% more came along I did not feel bad at all taking it.

The job I took was not nearly as interesting to me, but life in general was much better because of the money. We had just had another child and the increase contributed directly to less stress about bills and the costs of a new child, and allowed us to maintain a more comfortable standard of living.

Sometimes it is entirely about the money.

So that would fall under the appropriate compensation / benefits category then. I don't think the OP is saying money isn't a factor, just that it is not the only factor all things being equal.

I have taken jobs before where I got paid less because I would learn much more in the new job, inevitably allowing me to earn more money in the longer term. Had I stayed at the old job I would have found it extremely difficult to find a job now with very outdated skillset.

OP was pretty clear, as mikeash points out by quoting. I agree that it is usually not about the money, and I understand taking a cut or smaller increase b/c of a good opportunity, but to say it is "never about the money" is off the mark. As my situation illustrates, sometimes it is only about the money. That was literally the only reason I left my first position. On every other count the first position was equal or better than the one I moved into. After the switch work was worse but life was better. Because of the money.

"When someone says it's about the money, it's never about the money."

I am in the process of leaving an excellent job. I am well paid. The work is very enjoyable and meaningful. The people I work with are excellent. My team and I have huge freedom to innovate. The company is stable. I do not have to work huge hours. The work my team and I do on a daily basis is highly regarded.

Why am I leaving? When I arrived, in 2009, I decided that I was not going to work anywhere more than 3-5 years, simply because I had worked in my previous company for 12 years, and it took me 'too long' to shake free of that.

That's the discipline that I am working through right now. Everyone around me has known from the beginning about that arbitrary time-limit. They know I'm actively looking. They know that I'll continue to be exceptionally transparent about the entire process.

Honestly, I've been very happy with this process. People know where I stand, and that reduces anxiety. I've been paying down technical debt with a pure passion for the past few months, which would probably not have been possible without as much communication.

I'm probably going to end up getting an additional pay raise when I leave, which is fine, and I'm happy to get it. But it's not why I'm leaving.

I'm leaving because, for me, it's time. :)

> - meaningful work

One thing that you didn't mention and that has been very important in the decision making process of my recent job search would be:

  - hard work
The vast majority of the jobs out there are run-of-the-mill scale this CRUD thing jobs. Nothing wrong with that but if a company can offer me the opportunity and trust to work on something that is technically very hard, then that is a definitive bonus (although it's not possible for all types of companies to offer that kind of work to engineers)

What do you mean by hard? Hard like design an exciting new nonosql datastore? Or hard like refactoring and fixing an enormous crud codebase with myriad of hidden dependencies?

As I said above: Hard like technically hard: AI, Machine learning, generally designing new algorithms, language design, crypto, distributed systems, computer vision, compilers, and so on and so forth

>exciting new nonosql

also nice try at drawing a false dichotomy between CRUD stuff and "reckless" NoSQL DBs.

the legacy codebase refactoring is likely harder than designing new algorithm and all.

Surely that fits under the meaningful work description?

What you may find hard, others may find easy. So at this point it's how meaningful is this work to me? Am I learning anything? Am I finding it challenging enough?

> it's never about the money

In finance, that's certainly not true. I've seen several people make the leaps from the entry-level $100k job to the mid-level $200k job to the profit-sharing (or director-level) uncapped compensation jobs, doing it for the money. But to be fair, the difference in developer payscales as you move across finance-related roles is lifestyle-changing large, not the $20k bump you get switching from MSFT in Redmond to Google in Kirkland.

I would agree: when the employee gets to the point where, "It's about the money" I would guess that it's probably not.

In addition to not finding fulfillment (edw519's list of motivating factors), I'd say there's a list of demotivating factors too:

  * Having your feedback or objections being ignored by management 
  * "... I'm gonna need you to come in on Sunday..." once too often
  * Not being able to do your best work (because of schedule, or other, pressures)
  * Too many meetings / status checks
  * Greener pastures, technology stack wise, "Wow, here I am doing Java, but hot darn does Scala look cool, I wish we could use some Java version later than this Java version from 1999"
  * too much drama
With enough of these conditions too often, it doesn't matter how good the money is.

Having said that, if your current salary is around the amount you need to survive, then these worries come into place. If you're worried about losing your house because your salary is too low, then you're at a different place on the Maslow's pyramid and then it might really be about the money. ("Wow, this job is actually going to pay me, vs working for equity. I should take it")

In many ways I don't disagree with you, but in many ways I do.

I left my first four jobs purely due to money -- particularly the first three. There is nothing those businesses could have done to retain me short of a rapid and vast increase in pay.

The fourth one was about money, but it was also about several of your other listed factors. I was underpaid sure, but I also had excellent work conditions, good work/life balance, great benefits, great recognition and easily the best work mates I've ever had. I miss those few years daily and wish I could return there, but with better pay and differently aligned work responsibilities.

After these jobs I entered a very different phase in my career.

My next three paid me well enough that pay wasn't an issue, I could live comfortably, travel when I wanted,have plenty of toys, etc. All have had meaningful work, but most of the list was off with few exceptions.

These two major phases, early career development and later career development have been very different in terms of what has motivated me to stay.

Early career - rapid advancement -- which was really a proxy for more money.

Late career - now that I had sufficient money - I either have to find work where I can advance or find something I can stay in steady state till retirement. I prefer the former, but it's surprisingly easy to find yourself in a situation where neither are true and it's time to move on.

Operating under the assumption that I won't take a job that doesn't pay well and provide meaningful work and reasonable work conditions, here's what motivates me to leave these days:

- Lack of good leadership and a clear direction with strong decision making skills and high workforce engagement.

- Leadership that doesn't invite input from experienced employees.

- Cronyism. Nepotism. Brown-nosing. Machiavellianism.

- Non-congruent culture. Very hard to judge until you work there.

- Lack of stability in the work environment.

- Artificial glass ceilings.

- Misdirected recognition. I'm not bothered by an environment of no particular recognition, but I am bothered by one that directs it to the wrong people.

- People getting passed over for obvious promotions. It's usually tied to Cronyism and Nepotism, but not always. I've even happily taken positional promotions that weren't tied to pay increases.

I've found that most people I know who've stayed at a job long-term usually hate their jobs, but for a wide variety of personal reasons fear they can't find equivalent or better work elsewhere. Some of them are highly qualified and experienced, but stay only out of an irrational fear of staying with the devil they know because, as one friend put it, "it could be even worse someplace else!"

Here's how I view this: really excellent employees need continuous challenges, most business will eventually run out of new and interesting things for those employees to work on and try to make it up with positional advancements, but at some point even those slots will run dry. It's perfectly natural for excellent employees to move on elsewhere and there's nothing wrong with it. It's incumbent on the employer to make sure that the work that person was doing wasn't staffed one deep and has a plan B for the eventuality of that person leaving. Turnover can be good, it's natural, it should be embraced just like Google embraces failure in their scalable systems. Good employees should leave with your blessing.

When you're in the upper echelons, where your single income is 3x the median houshold income, it's never about the money.

But most programmers don't live there.

There's way too much "never" floating around in here. If you make three times the median household income and -- like many people -- you live at or slightly beyond your means, then yes, it certainly can be about the money.

I knew people in high school whose families made way more money than ours but chose to live in homes that left them with nothing after the mortgage; they were often called "house poor." Big house, ancient station wagon, nothing left over for furniture.

Of course this is just anecdotal, but I think we can probably agree that given the commonness of financial irresponsibility and undereducation, to state that all people who make a lot of money have no money problems (whether they should or not) is a little too optimistic.

Correction: it's never just about the money.

To add a little nuance,

If you're not getting enough money, that's a symptom of a deeper problem. Maybe no one gives a shit about your company's product. Maybe your boss undervalues you and pays you accordingly. Digging in and finding the actual root of the problem is occasionally worth it and usually not.

In my experience, companies that find themselves in the “What Would It Take to Keep You Here?” situation are rarely ever prepared to actually do what it would take to keep you there. The very next sentence out of their mouths is usually "but only management is eligible for that level of..."

"OK, but to be honest we just don't have that money available at the moment. Is there anything else we could do? We don't want to lose you, but we have to be realistic."

As a CEO, many of the scariest days I've faced have been those when a critical member of our team told us they were leaving the company. Your heart sinks...

I'm always happy to hear that a company values their employees, and takes a proactive approach to keep them happy. I'm also surprised how little some companies do on that same front, and only scramble to analyze pay, work conditions, etc. after an employee has announced they're leaving. By then it's too late.

One case that sticks out for me was a few years back when a brilliant lead dev I know left the company he was working for. I knew the company's work conditions weren't favorable, he didn't have a job title worthy of what he was doing day to day, and after hearing the salary he was being paid (about half a typical market-rate salary at the time), my only question was why he hadn't left earlier.

So I think a lot of companies encourage their employees to leave without even knowing it. Or even worse, they know they're shortchanging them on some level and gamble on fear or ignorance in hopes that said employees feel they're getting a fair deal. I believe this to be the case with the example I cited above, and am glad the lead dev has since found a company with much better work conditions across the board.

I was in a pretty similar situation recently. After more firewood was thrown on the fire, I decided to start looking, and at that point I had already decided not to accept any counter-offer. Not only was I being shortchanged on salary (significantly), but also in benefits, perks, and working conditions. I'm really happy I found an awesome startup in SF that still after a month feels like an ideal workplace for me.

When I was looking, I was disconcerted when I found companies with no personal growth prospects or that flat out said they wouldn't pay what I was asking (fair) because they didn't want to pay two engineers with the same title too differently. I asked if they would offer bonuses to compensate or if they'd consider paying the other guy the same salary, because he seemed smart enough. No to both, and I felt that alone indicated that management there didn't value engineering talent.

I really hope this treatment of talented workers isn't too pervasive in the industry. Pay people what they're worth. Strive to offer the best working conditions, benefits, and perks. Take the values of your employees into consideration. It really doesn't seem like it's too much to ask for. And personally, I'm all for complete transparency within my company, even to the point of salary information. I think it would resolve more issues than it would cause.

I asked if they would offer bonuses to compensate or if they'd consider paying the other guy the same salary, because he seemed smart enough. No to both, and I felt that alone indicated that management there didn't value engineering talent.

That's awesome that you vouched for the other guy. And I wonder what technical experience management or upper-level execs had at that company. I find that when there's very little to none at those levels in the company, they'll tend to be similar to what you described. Ultimately they view engineers as a commodity resource and try to get by with the "cheapest" deal they can.

I've found many of the same companies also suffer from high turnover, and turn a blind eye to the long term drag that imposes on their software. For companies that profit in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year (e.g. the company I mentioned previously), I think it's silly they resort to offering market, or below market, wages to save a few bucks (relatively speaking) vs. striving to have happier employees, and retaining them for a longer period of time.

It seems that in this post a title change was given without a raise. I don't necessarily think that doing that is such a good idea. I know the post says that they were already being compensated fairly. Here's why I think promotions without pay are a bad idea: It gives the employee more incentive to leave, and very little to stay. Superiors tend to give titles pretty easily because it's "free", but I think it may actually cost the company more in the long run. It's a gambler's play.

That's an incorrect assumption. We gave raises to both Adam & Jamie commensurate with their new titles/roles.

Rand, in the email included in the post you wrote, "They're compensated fairly, IMO, but both deserve the titles they've been aiming for."

That's what led me to that conclusion.

I assumed the same, maybe the article is not perfectly unambiguous on this detail.

Exactly. A title bump means that the person will just leverage their position for the same/better position somewhere else with better pay.

Alternatively, a title bump with static pay could mean increased responsibilities without a corresponding increase in pay, which is also incentive to leave.

I think there's much more evidence that there is a management mandate to squeeze as much as possible out of salaried employees than there is about counter-offered employees having their head on a block under management efforts to replace the perceived-disloyal. The proactivity being championed in the post and comments does not have industry support and any manager who suggests giving raises or benefits ahead of time likely has the Sword of Damocles hanging over them afterwards.

> The proactivity being championed in the post and comments does not have industry support and any manager who suggests giving raises or benefits ahead of time likely has the Sword of Damocles hanging over them afterwards.

This might be true, but it seems like bad policy. A number of industries give extra compensation to preempt attrition. The whole point of bonuses in finance and consulting isn't to encourage people to work harder (they're already working flat-out) but to keep them from leaving. Nobody has the "I'm going to leave unless you can up my salary" conversation. Instead, management pays big bonuses to top performers before they get dissatisfied and think of leaving.

I don't think this post, or most best-practice type articles, is trying to describe how things generally work, or even trying to push it as mainstream knowledge. Instead it's someone who has gained enlightenment trying to get through to people with open minds.

On this general topic, not only should you ensure that you don't lose your best people externally, more importantly you shouldn't lose your best people internally -- that they turn into not-your-best-people because they know they're underappreciated but don't have the willpower to leave, but instead try to passively setup a situation where they're asked to go.

Sure, "shouldn't," but in my experience the second case is far, far more prevalent, using Machiavelli and Sun Tzu as management techniques, keeping good people on board as well as a lower burn rate than they would if their board allowed them to proactively secure their staff..

That's one thing I've learned from Hacker News, that the ability to identify the right people to hire and promote is the lifeblood of an organisation. It seems like such a crime that big companies would delegate these to central departments who barely know how the teams are going or even what they do

> It seems like such a crime that big companies would delegate these to central departments who barely know how the teams are going or even what they do

It is, but its also an opportunity for smaller business to more effectively compete

what also needs to be done form a CEO CTO perspective is have a succession plan in place - this is where I feel Rand fell down here it should not be be "o noes what if x leaves" it should be if x leaves can y (x's deputy) do his job.

I don't think you should expect employers to make pre-emptive strikes. This is a geek rationalisation for passive behaviour. As a talented employee, you should speak to your employer and tell them that you believe you're worth more to them than they're currently valuing you (do not threaten them with leaving though). If they don't understand the significance of you stating this to them, then leave and it will become apparent to them. (But it is better to give them the information before doing so.)

For profitability, it's more important to keep the cost of employees down, than it is to helpfully negotiate value-creators into better positions. (If you were to do so, then how do you defend it to your investors? You can't prove they were about to leave...)

If you are worried about single points of failure leaving, then request that another employee be hired and mentored into understanding of the SPOF. Even better create intrinsic motivations so you can have more confidence this won't happen. Ask employees if they're doing work they love, create a fun company culture, etc.

I kind of see this whole article as feel-good for the non-ownership class.

I don't think you should expect employers to make pre-emptive strikes. This is a geek rationalisation for passive behaviour. As a talented employee, you should speak to your employer and tell them that you believe you're worth more to them than they're currently valuing you (do not threaten them with leaving though). If they don't understand the significance of you stating this to them, then leave and it will become apparent to them.

One thing that many engineers fail to recognize is that their managers are often more overworked than they are. They take being "ignored" personally, when reality is that their managers have a million plates spinning at once.

This is why it's considered distasteful to ask for a transfer or better project at 6 months. To the employee, that's a long time. To the manager, that person just came on board. If the manager has 12 reports, then the effective tenure (absolute tenure, divided by number of reports) is 0.5 months.

Which supports my long-standing contention that open allocation is superior. Expecting managers to control the division of labor in addition to the other work they have is just too much.

I like the idea of regularly evaluating what you would do to keep someone, and then just doing it. Perhaps make it a six monthly thing.

I think I came across this idea in a Netflix culture slide deck first and it stuck with me.

This seems like it could be double sided. What happens when you realize someone hasn't held up to their last evaluation?

Then you start a conversation about what's going on. The point here isn't about offering extra compensation to keep people. It's about keeping an open dialog so they know you appreciate their work (and conversely if there's a problem, you talk about it early instead of letting it fester).

I am not sure, my planning is for optimal circumstances and so far that's working out for me. Trusting your staff will do well by you does amazing things.

The email featured in the article bothers me. First line: "If either were to come to us with a competing offer, we'd work with all our might to keep them". Then, almost in the same breath "They're fairly compensated, IMO." Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

It was my belief that at the time, they were fairly compensated for the roles they held at the VP level. When we moved them up to officer titles and roles, we did increase compensation as well. Our standard policy is that we always pay above the 50th percentile and below the 90th percentile based on available salary data. We've got a really nice set from a wide survey of VC investors based on portfolio company size, stage, etc. and combine that with info from Salary.com and Payscale, too.

> Our standard policy is that we always pay above the 50th percentile and below the 90th percentile based on available salary data.

That's such a confusing standard. It means that a majority of your employees could get a nice raise by changing companies, no?

Glad I'm not the only one that was thinking that.

Is that a public policy?

From my reading of it, that email is in fact written by the author (Rand Fishkin).

In any case, I have to admit that in most situations if I were given a new title without an accompanying raise or bonus, I'd consider it to be somewhat patronizing and it would have the opposite impact of what the author here is suggesting.

Of course, YMMV. I'm a programmer and I don't care much about specific titles.

As an early employee of a startup, what keeps me here are my stock options. REAL ownership of a company.

I didn't join the company to get a vacation or a title bump. I joined because I believe in the vision, the people and the hope that some day my stock will be worth something.

If you can create a meritocracy where employees understand that the company's success translates to their own personal success, then they're much less likely to leave.

If your startup has done a couple rounds of financing, you might want to start thinking about titles and salary.

I think you are in for some growing up. No to put down your beleifs or company you work for but getting paid unfairly (below reasonable market) is not most practical approach.

If you aren't one of the founders, you aren't going to make anything. Sorry. We've all been there.

Just like how Adam D'angelo didn't make anything from Facebook?

I wish you the best of luck. And I hope your employer is the next Facebook, I really do.

I'm just saying, many of us have been in that position and learned a valuable lesson. Don't be surprised.

I don't know anything about your company, and there are some good ones out there, but read this: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/dont-waste-yo...

As always, it comes down to "if you want your employee to stay, give him a raise (salary, title, perks, ...) according to his skill BEFORE he tries to leave with a competing offer".

There was a post on hacker news a few days ago where everyone was saying that in their experience, non-minimal pay raises always came with changing job, not with normal raises within their current position. Same for me, pay raises always meant changing job, with my employer realizing "oh wait, we were paying you as X but you're actually worth Y, now that you noticed let us offer you an appropriate salary". No thanks.

That's why when google started giving huge pay raises to a lot of people a couple years ago to keep them I actually thought it was a good idea, and more people should do that; if your employees are good, giving them a raise is usually a lot cheaper and easier than finding someone of the same skill and experience.

It really seems like that is the only way to make significant progress (as far as salary) in your career. You either jump ship or get a competing offer so your current company can match. If I came in with a competing offer that paid me 15-20% more and the company can match, then why didn't they just give me a raise in the first place? It probably would have stopped me from even being interested in other positions.

Companies need to focus more on "What we should be doing to ensure our best employees are happy and not looking to move" rather than the "Oh you are leaving. What can we do for you ? btw, we cannot do this this and this. other than all this, sure we can do blah"

That mock monologue is actually really spot on. I just recently left our bootstrapped startup and had a pre-emotive conversation shortly before doing so. It played out just like that.

I shared this link on HN already but since its so relavent here it is again. I wrote about why I still left. But didn't write about the conversation I had. And you hit it on the head. http://mustefa.com/looking-back-at-my-ux-career-in-2012/

I'm legitimately curious for my own early-stage CEO sake: why did you have to ask the board just to promote them?

EDIT: nvm, on re-read, I see you were just asking for feedback. I wasn't sure if you needed permission from your board to promote to CMO, etc.

I think technically, I may not have needed board permission to make the move, but certainly any time you're promoting to officer level, you should be informing your board/investors.

Thanks Rand, makes sense!

Years ago: My boss found out I wanted to leave.

Got double the pay and free rent on my apartment.

Did you leave anyway? Are you still staying now out of loyalty even though it is likely you are worth more than what the company pays you (and probably haven't put out your feelers)?

I left a year later.

Going from leading a team to dealing with career politicians wasn't my idea of fun.

Here is the big kicker you won't read catchy blog posts about.

All the recognition, perks, and compensation in the world don't make it worth working with 'career politicians' or employees who don't pull their weight in management positions.

I don't think there is an easy fix, once a company reaches a certain size these problems become unavoidable. A hiring slip-up occurs, and it isn't fixed because of some conflict with other perks. An incompetent manager takes advantage of a results oriented work environment. A shitty hire lands on a team with a remote supervisor. Or some combination of both causes a rift that doesn't close, and good workers associated with the team have to bail. Boom, your organization has a bedsore that won't heal.

I read some of the comments about employee passiveness. Sometimes it's tough for an employee to put themselves on the spot like that. What if the conversation doesn't go the 'right' way?

The answer may be more equity than you're willing to give to "just a developer". Awards and titles are cheap by comparison.

A fine sentiment. And considering the pressures of an average business, probably not observed very often.

What if he/she is a real gem and you know it!

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