I started Kisko because I wanted to create a workplace where I and others would enjoy working. I had been working in different kinds of companies. Some of them large (IBM) and some medium-sized (F-Secure, Finnish Post, L&H), as well as one startup (Oplayo). All these had good and bad things about them, as companies usually do.
But I knew that all of them could do better in certain areas. First of all in how software gets built, and secondly in how much people enjoy working in the company. After eight years I know there are also a lot of other things we should have thought about, but this is what I’ve learned about employee happiness.
How to make a programmer happy?
Provide the best tools. Tools are used daily and they are used to create value, so why would you force anyone to use crappy tools? This includes devices, software, furniture, lighting and A/C.
Find motivating projects and great clients. A bit harder to do, especially when starting your company. You might not have the luxury to choose projects. Still, I’d aim for it. Working hard on your sales game will give you the power to choose projects.
Create a no assholes policy. Hiring good talent is hard. Hiring good talent without hiring assholes is even harder. But nothing, will kill your culture faster than hiring an asshole.
Promote mastery. Help employees achieve mastery by offering them challenging projects, training and support.
Don’t do stupid things. Stop unnecessary meetings and processes.
Develop personal stress management abilities. How do you achieve this? With experience and processes. Experience gives everyone a better understanding of the big picture (things will break, be late and still no one will die and everything will be ok). Processes (personal and company-wide) will help people handle work, prioritize and remember better. Company-wide processes are probably clear for most, but for personal processes you can read my blog post: Three tools for managing work related stress.
Support employee goals. Even if that would lead to some employees leaving the company some day following their goals.
Embrace failing. Or put in other words: embrace learning.
Build trust and transparency. Trust employees and co-workers. Autonomy is super important for happiness. Be transparent about everything. If the company is transparent, employees will trust you. You’ll also get lower stress levels.
Care. Care about your employees. Care about your co-workers. Care about your clients. Care about your projects. Care about everything. If you don’t care, why are you doing it?
Free pizza and beer
To conclude, these are just my findings and my current understanding. I probably missed some big ones, but one thing is missing from the list on purpose: “free pizza and beer”. Although it’s fun to have, it won’t fix anything.