It’s hard to grasp how this economic downturn works. Unemployment is high, particularly in California. At the same time, the competition for employees in certain niches is heating up. At fast growth companies like Google and Facebook, the competition for key employees is at the heart of business risk. A couple of years at one of these juggernauts gives you a lifetime compensation kicker.
Everyone wants them. They are in short supply. It’s a dream market for aggressive recruiters with money to spend.
Although Google rarely confirms internal policy decisions, the industry was abuzz yesterday with their move to grant all employees a 10% raise and a $1,000 bonus.
So, they are getting some things right at Google.
Most people, even the best and brightest, go to work to make money. If they didn’t need the money, they’d often (even usually) do something else. Working is an economic thing.
In the past several years, HR people have started using the word engagement. They claim that being engaged trumps a good paycheck. This silliness has gotten a great reception in the economic downturn.
The smartest way that you can translate this idea of engagement is as follows: “Since jobs are hard to come by, we expect you to work for less with an even bigger smile on your face. If you are not engaged, we don’t want you here.” This has nothing to do with the idea of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Instead, it’s just another joke on the working stiff.
Silicon Valley companies have been at the forefront of employment nonsense. In recruiting circles, the hottest company is always held up as the model for contemporary tactics in recruiting. They’re the current fair haired child so what they do must be the new paradigm.
The truth is that the hottest Silicon Valley companies can and do exploit the fact that people think they’ll get rich by working there. It’s no challenge to attract workers to a hot company. The harder thing is getting applicants to stay away.
The other thing you can take away from this announcement is that the bloom is off of Google’s rose. While it will continue to be a tech giant well into the future, the exciting early days are behind it. Now comes adolescence and adulthood. Growth is harder and employees no longer bite on the whole ‘it’s cool to work here’ bit.
Adulthood is inevitable for people, companies and cultures. We are making a turn in our economic existence that favors probability over speculation. Expect to see far reaching consequences of Google’s decision…. more raises, fewer benefits, and more focus on economic parity.