Posted on 5 mins read

I’ve created this system for rating technology companies based on the way they conduct business, their place in the community and how they treat their developers. It’s a work in progress and I welcome your commentary.

There are 24 criteria under six categories. I would consider any company that scores positively on 12 or more of these criteria to be “a good place to work.” I have my doubts about whether any existing company could achieve a perfect score, so please don’t take it personally if your company comes up short in multiple areas.

The Scorecard

1 . Integrity

  • The company does not lie or exaggerate to employees, stakeholders or the general public. The company does not ask its employees to lie or exaggerate in any capacity.
  • The company does not ask its employees to “take one for the team” or ask for favors based on loyalty. It treats their employment as a mutually-beneficial business transaction.
  • The company responds quickly and honestly to employee questions, complaints and suggestions.

2 . Responsibility

  • The company is profitable or has a clear plan for becoming profitable.
  • The company does work that adds non-incidental, non-economic value to the world; that is, its product makes the world a better place.
  • The company has earned a place in the community as an integrated and charitable partner, not simply a profiteer or occasional do-gooder. The company finds meaningful ways to support employees’ charitable efforts.
  • The company actively prevents discrimination on a corporate level (e.g. inequitable salaries or promotion schedules) and by employees (e.g. harassment and insensitivity).

3 . Enablement

  • The company offers ample vacation days and does not allow norms to develop that would prevent any employee from using them. The company encourages employees to care for their mental and emotional health by taking time off.
  • On occasions when overtime work (over 40 hours per week) is necessary, the company sees this as a flaw in its operations and takes steps to improve. It voluntarily offers extra paid vacation days to those who have been obligated to work overtime.
  • The company does not falsely equate “time in chair” with “work produced.” In other words, the company has high-quality metrics for measuring team productivity.
  • The company treats weekends, holidays, maternity/paternity leave and vacation days as sacred, and takes steps to ensure that urgent or on-call work is avoided on those days (e.g. by implementing code freezes, planned releases, personnel redundancy, and plentiful QA resources).

4 . Compensation

  • The company pays its employees competitively and transparently. It sees turnover as a greater threat than overcompensation.
  • The company treats its benefits package as a gift and/or hiring incentive, not a favor for which it expects to be repaid.
  • The company sees payroll as a non-negotiable commitment. It does not ask any employee to work for free or for reduced salary — not ever, for any reason.
  • The company takes pains not to exaggerate the value of non-monetary compensation such as stock options.

5 . Intentionality

  • The company maintains a rigorous (but not excessively time-consuming) interview process to ensure that the right candidates are hired as often as possible.
  • The company employs an appropriate number of people whose job is to prototype and validate new products and features with actual customers before significant effort is invested in developing them.
  • The company always involves experienced developers in meetings and decisions that involve products, features or deadlines. This ensures that developers believe the features they are building are realistic, valuable and well-designed, and have the chance to push back if they don’t.
  • The company’s org chart is as flat as possible, management is decentralized, and the employee handbook is slim. The company demonstrates trust in its employees by minimizing bureaucracy. Individual initiative is not challenged by organizational inertia.

6 . Excellence

  • The company provides a quiet, low-interruption environment conducive to deep concentration and creative work.
  • The company encourages employees to use the company’s time and resources to develop their own professional skills and knowledge.
  • The company allows employees to spend limited amounts of company time and resources to pursue passion projects within their area of expertise. Projects that directly improve the company’s product or impact its bottom line are not misdefined as passion projects.
  • The company fully commits to providing an excellent and stable product which employees are proud to support. It does not outsource essential or long-lived work to low-cost offshore teams. It does not ask its employees to maintain poorly-architected projects unless it is willing to commit the time for them to rebuild from scratch.
  • When an employee’s behavior is problematic, it is addressed discreetly, one-on-one — not by making new rules or sending company-wide emails. When it’s necessary to fire an unproductive or toxic employee, the company acts both swiftly and compassionately.

Discussion

I tend to believe that a company that does right by its customers and employees is most likely to do right by itself — to be profitable, to compete, to survive — so I see each of these criteria as worthy aspirations for any company. I realize this is a very progressive viewpoint. Do you agree or disagree? Can a company expect to get ahead in the long run by taking shortcuts in the aforementioned areas?

I’m interested in knowing how various companies (or departments within large companies) measure up. What’s your company’s score? Are any of these criteria overstated, understated, or irrelevant to you? Is anything missing? Comment below.

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