Brian Buckley, the Vice President of B2B Sales at Barnes&Noble.com has a great formula he uses to explain how an employee evaluates their job — whether they are coming on board, staying, or deciding to leave. With his permission (thank you Brian), here it is:
F + E + W = P
Future + Environment + Work = Pay
Anyone who has been a boss will come across some variation on this kind of formula, either through word of mouth, journal articles or pure contemplation. What’s nice about Buckley’s version is its succinctness and simplicity — and it accurately represents the calculus that people make when looking at their job. The formula literally sums up how a person evaluates their job, with the nuance of placing the “Pay” component as an algebraic sum that is traded-off with the other variables, the key elements of a job.
Let’s go through the four elements:
FUTURE : This is the big-picture element, where an employee reflects on whether a given organization is a place where they want to invest themselves into. Questions include:
What is the future of this company / industry / sector / role? Does it “have legs?” WIll it survive? What will its growth pattern look like?
What is MY future with this company/ industry / sector / role? Does it offer me a growth opportunity? Is this a good profession for me, long term?
ENVIRONMENT: The Environment element is a big one. This includes a number of sub-categories:
What is your company’s internal physical workplace environment like? Also, where is the workplace located? Are you working in Seattle? SOHO? Compton? Basra? Whether the concern is about commute or safety, location is obviously important to a lot of people. Job-related travel falls into this sub-category too: it can viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the person and circumstances.
Who is your boss? This is probably the biggest factor of all. The wrong boss can cause your career to go down the tubes. The wrong boss will make your life miserable. This is a topic that we’ll revisit in future posts, but for starters, let me relay to you this simple advice: Avoid Psychopaths and Narcissists at all costs.
Who are your co-workers? Do you enjoy them? What is the organizational culture like? Brian feels that since most people spend more time with co-workers than their own families, you need to enjoy being around each other. “If the organizational culture is one where backstabbing is the norm and you do not have that type of personality, you need to find a more conducive environment, one that better matches who you are.” Try to do some research with current and former employees. Using LinkedIn is one way to find these individuals. Also, while you are waiting in the reception area or walking through a potential employer’s offices observe how employees are interacting with each other and check people’s body language. These cues can tell you a lot about the organization’s environment.
One more I’d add: Who are your customers? One of the reasons I love my current job is because of the quality of my firm’s clients, both as organizations and as individuals — and what they are trying to do — i.e., trying to improve their business results by investing in their people. This is a good segue to the next element of the formula…
WORK: Ah, the work itself. This is where you ask yourself: What do I do every day? Do I enjoy it? Does it feel purposeful? Is this rote work or am I being challenged? Is my function too narrow in scope? Can I bring up new ideas? Is every new idea crushed? A lot of people hate their jobs and hate the work they do… but they do it for 40 years!
Finally, on the flipside of the equation, PAY: There is an interesting dynamic when it comes to pay. Sometimes the pay can become less important than the job. On the other hand, people are willing to put up with a lot of crap for money. As an independent e-commerce consultant, I’ve dealt with some pretty abusive folks over the years — I quickly learned that the best psychological armor was to charge a very, very large fee whenever I met someone who seemed like a Big Jerk (and they were always willing to pay — I guess they became conditioned over time because others have been making this same calculus) . Of course, I ultimately ended up switching over to a better environment anyway. Brian Buckley describes how AMEX went to virtual offices at one point, which was a boon to lots of moms in the sales force who wanted to be near their kids. AMEX was able to retain these individuals despite lower pay.
The message is clear: Companies can save money by working on all the variables on the left side of the equation. Want a quick fix? Try addressing those variable by instituting a solid employee onboarding process. No, handing an new hire a pile of papers, a Starbucks gift card and a making them sit through a bunch of meetings and presentations for 2-3 days is NOT an onboarding process. That’s called “orientation,” and even then, just barely. Onboarding does not need to be complicated, or rather, it can be started with a few simple steps. Once again, I’ll have to save this topic for another time. Let’s wrap up this analysis of the Buckley Formula.
One of things that I like about this formula is that it reconciles pretty well with the classic Motivator-Hygiene theory of Frederick Herzberg, a management theory that is predictive of long term employee retention (and “long term” is a relative term, depending on the intensity of the job). What the Buckley Formula says to me is: “Yes, according to Motivator-Hygiene theory, the size of the paycheck is not a motivator for in the long run. Yet the common sense, short term reality is that an employee’s pay really does form a major role in their decision to stick with a company… in balance with the other, true motivational factors.” Being a veteran of the war-for-talent-dot-com-insanity, running a company or career on Motivator-Hygiene theory alone always seemed a bit dubious to me. There’s the long term, and then there’s the short term… not to mention the medium term.
A challenge to employers is to find ways to improve on the F.E.W. factors — Future, Environment and Work — so that they don’t have to rely just on Pay to keep their people motivated. I’ve seen a number of executives who believe all they have to do is bluff about those factors and make a good “sales pitch” to potential hires. Of course, the truth always emerges, and what then happens is that their organizations suffer from high turnover rates and a high sense of employee entitlement. They waste money (often their investors’ money), time and potential because they don’t look at ways to make a sustained improvement of small investments that have a big payoff.
But let’s not dump all the responsibility on the employers. All of us (well, most of us) are employees, sometime, somewhere. So along with the challenge to employers in the previous paragraph, I’ll issue the following challenge to employees as well: Which of the equation’s variables can you, the employee, control or contribute to yourself?
Thanks again to Brian Buckley for sharing this lovely little equation.