Finding the Right Company Values

Since engineers are more sought after than ever, they have incredible leverage to find a great place to work. Even though salary and benefits may be the primary movers for choosing a place to work, values and culture are an important part of the equation. In this episode we talk with Lynne Tye who runs KeyValues, a website which helps engineers identify companies and organizations that share the same values as you.

Identifying values in yourself

What are your values? What do you look for in a place to work? Many people don’t actually know what they want out of a career. One thing Tye suggests is sitting down and writing the top 10 personal values you hold and rank them. Even if they have nothing to do with work, understanding what is important to you can permeate into your work life and help you understand which values in a company culture translate into your own personal values.

Another tactic which is much harder and slower, but arguably more effective, is to work with lots of different teams and document or make note of what you prefer. Your values  will start to manifest as you work with more companies, more people, and more sets of values. Over the course of a career, it will become clear what is important to you and what isn’t. The downside, of course, is that it may mean making mistakes or potentially working in places that are detrimental to your values in order to learn and grow.

Values to look for

If you’re using a service like KeyValues, there are a lot (44) of cultural values to choose from. Values and culture are related and can help you peak into what your day-to-day life may be like.

For example, a value like risk-taking over stability can draw the line in a culture since a company must take a stance on this value: they cannot be both risk-taking and stable (or risk-averse). What’s more important to you? Doing things quickly and moving faster or doing things very well and releasing only the best products? Answering that question can help you narrow down the field of companies that align with your preference.

Most importantly, use values as a way to explore how different teams operate and explore their profiles. With social interactions, like dating or playing team sports, it’s very easy to see lots of people showcase their value systems and teamwork. With employment, it’s much more difficult to see a prospective employer’s culture since workplaces are so insular and don’t project much of their day-to-day operations. earning as much as you can about a company’s day-to-day values, can not only educate you more on whether you would like to work there, but it will further bring to light any values you might align with and save you from having to go through the rigorous hiring process for a place you may not enjoy working at.

For engineering teams: how to share your values

On the flip side, it’s also important to share your values honestly if you’re trying to hire great engineers for your team. Really large companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon can get away with the values plastered all over the walls of their offices due to their enormous success.

Smaller companies can rely on culture to separate themselves from the herd, so getting this right is not only important for establishing a north star but for hiring the best people that fit with your company’s values. The more honest and transparent you are with what your values really are and what they mean, the more likely that better candidates will walk through your doors.

Actions speak louder than words

Even if you are earnest in what you believe your values are, if your values in words do not align with your values in actions, you may get engineers through the door, but you will not get them to stay. The perfect example is a company like Enron: they valued honesty and transparent as their company values. How did that work out when they defrauded shareholders, lied to their employees, and ultimately bankrupted the organization?

People will remember bad cultures from past employers far more than they will remember great cultures. It’s not only important to nail culture to keep your current employers happy, but to retain employees and increase your reach with the larger development community. It can be much more difficult to hire if you’ve lost engineers to bad culture since they will tell their friends and future colleagues about how much they disliked a bad culture at a previous company.

Special considerations for gig economy companies

Culture is not just the values you instill within your company walls, but the values you want all of your employees to project to the world. Even though you may have specific values for your engineering teams, the company-wide values that everyone must share will impact those that are delivering the service your engineers build.

Tye was part of one of the first major gig economy companies: HomeJoy. For gig economy businesses, this makes it even more important to get your engineering values right, since they have a direct impact on your business bottom line because the software your engineers build will enable your gig economy workers to be the best they can be at their jobs, too.

What values are most important to you? If you’re exploring career opportunities, be sure to check out the KeyValues website. If you want to be listed on the website, be sure to submit your team and let the world know what you value!

Adam Conrad

Boston, MA

Adam is a Boston-based designer, developer, UX consultant at Anon Consulting. He runs a UI and UX engineering publication over at UserInterfacing.