Why Perks Are Not Enough

What is it about the Silicon Valley workforce that is so unique?

First of all, it’s fairly evolved. People in Silicon Valley have to be very deep in their area of technical expertise, but they also need to be interested and involved in the direction of the company as a whole. Even engineers have to be able to make an elevator pitch for the company – they have to understand the value proposition to be able to put their work into context and understand it in relation to the goals of the entire organization.

People in Silicon Valley also seem more comfortable with failure. Most have worked at a failed startup at one point or another, so they know what it means to take chances, and that they can survive if things don’t go as planned.

Silicon Valley also has a very transient workforce. People are very well connected, and are looking to create their own opportunities.

What this does mean, though, is that they’re not particularly loyal. This doesn’t bode well for companies that are looking to recruit skilled workers for the long term.

What you have, then, is a sort of bidding war of perks in Silicon Valley, as companies compete to attract the best of the best. Some organizations are improving their learning culture, or building a sense of community. Others, like EMC, are all about flexibility and tailoring the job to the individual. And let’s not forget about Google, with its legendary cafeteria.

But perks are not enough. People who work at Google, for instance, have told me that all the free gourmet food in the world would not make them stay if they had a problematic boss. So it all comes back to leadership.

Additionally, the fact that everyone’s trying to implement these perks eventually undermines the effort, leveling the playing field again. At that point, the real difference is one’s ability to lead.

There’s no doubt that the Silicon Valley workforce is unique. You can see this from the high levels of innovation and creativity that come out of this region. But, at the end of the day, they still require – and desire – strong leadership in order to succeed.


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