It’s been said that the key to a happy, fulfilling career is to find roles that give you 3 things: a sense of motivating purpose, opportunities to attain mastery of sufficiently challenging work, and the autonomy to feel in control of your own outcomes.
From a management perspective, I think where a company can really differentiate its culture comes down to the third element, autonomy.
Purpose, for the most part, is self-selecting, especially as people progress through their careers. Not to say that a CEO’s rallying pep talk is superfluous, but the difference will be at the margin.
Mastery requires a bit more of a concerted effort on the part of the employer to evaluate development and make sure people are being appropriately challenged. But there’s no shortage of companies offering the chance to work on interesting problems.
So that brings us to autonomy. It’s the element that requires the most finessing because it encompasses not only the freedom and decision-making authority people feel they have on the job, but also the quality of life they’re able to enjoy outside of it. Much of the heat Square has gotten recently falls “squarely” (couldn’t help myself) into this category. Autonomy is also the hardest element to maintain as an organization grows and likely accounts for many a decision to leave for a smaller, nimbler competitor.