Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Strange HR practices

We're hiring a new person but only offering two weeks of vacation, whereas everyone on the team got three to start. When I asked HR about this, I was told:

"I'm sure he realizes that by moving to a new company he is not going to get the same benefits that he left behind."

What do you think about this? Should vacation be something you earn based on your years with the company, or something that all people at the same level get equally?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

HR departments like to think that as you build up seniority in a company, you accumulate perks -- perks which you lose if you jump ship. This gives you a switching cost which makes you less likely to leave the company. All else being equal, the fewer employees who move from company to company, the more experienced the workforce at each company will be, and a more experienced workforce is worth more money. So HR people like to devise benefits programs to reward people for staying in place for a long time. Besides, it costs a typical company 6 months' salary to recruit, hire and train a typical new knowledge worker, so the more stable the workforce, the less costly it is.

One might think that every company has an economic incentive to "cheat" -- to offer incoming employees the same or better benefits as they had at the previous company so as to encourage defections in but not defections out. My economic theory is not very strong -- ask an economist about this -- but I think the idea is that you want to leave room in somebody's benefits package to give them increasing perks every year based on seniority just to give the employee the impression that they are accumulating a bunch of useful "stuff" by virtue of staying put -- similar to the concept of "sunk cost" which shouldn't affect decision making, but irrational humans tend to attribute something to it. It's the same reason American Express prints "Member since 1987" on your credit card. Or the same reason Linuxheads will tolerate any number of indignities to avoid rebooting their computers and losing the accumulated "213 days of uptime" they like to brag about.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, February 23, 2004

Most HR people have a lot to learn about what we developers do anyway.

Sticking computers in corners so only one person can see the screen (because obviously we're just typists right? we don't need to talk to each other, let alone pair?)

Surveillance to the point of being ridiculous. Sooner or later they're going to have to trust us. We make the software. If you want to give the customer value through the software we make, sooner or later you're going to have to trust us. Unlike this random example:

Dafydd Rees
Monday, March 1, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home