The latest cycle of employee pre-IPO migration is in full swing in the Bay Area. Seven years ago, workers flocked to Google. Before that, eBay and Yahoo! were the favorites. LinkedIn and Twitter held some interest recently, but now Facebook is the new land of plenty, with its signal that going public in 2012 is a real possibility.
With news like this, it’s easy to take the view that Silicon Valley is full of a bunch of opportunists who care little about what they do, and care more about retiring early. True, there is some of that. But what many people don’t fully understand is it’s the company cultures that make this place tick.
I landed at eBay in 2004, well past the stock option boom. Yes, the first week there, I met a woman who was retiring to the south of France, but she was in the minority. I had many more co-workers who had been there for years, or for just six months, and were charged up about what eBay had done and could still do—how it could continue to change the economic lives of millions. It was intoxicating. Why would I want to work anywhere else? But many have since left (including me) for the next great thing. And I am sure they are ready to move again, this time to Facebook. Certainly many companies are looking at the Facebook hiring tsunami and are worried about losing employees. They are right to be concerned, but before they start handing out huge bonuses and throwing employee appreciation parties, it is important to keep the following in mind:
- Don’t lose sight of what you stand for. Employees came to you for reasons much richer than just stock options. Google is fiercely intellectual and values independent thinkers. Yahoo!, once a revolutionary, is still Fighting the Good Fight. These are the kinds of core values that will continue to attract and retain employees long after the stock price spikes.
- Don’t try to be someone else. When eBay leadership was stressed that we weren’t enough like Amazon, my connection to the brand started to slip. I didn’t drive an hour each way to work for just any e-commerce company. I did it to work someplace special with amazing colleagues.
- Respect the Silicon Valley way. Employee movement is a fact of life, and our comfort with that is what helps fuel the start-up culture. It’s about taking chances and trying new things. Try to hang onto employees too tightly, and you’ll just help them reach the door that much faster. It’s a fluid workforce, and you will see them again.
I know two people who have recently taken jobs at Google. When asked about their new positions, both brought up the incredible sushi bar in the cafeteria. The sushi bar!?!? When is a sushi bar not just a sushi bar? When it is used to signal that a brand cares about what its employees care about—and that is the key to creating a loyal workforce.