Today we’re reviewing the Valve New Employee Handbook. Why the Valve New Employee Handbook? Because it’s mind blowing, that’s why! In fact, I’ll go as far as to say it’s the Gurren Lagann of New Employee Handbooks! It’s so ridiculously awesome you won’t believe it.
One day I was browsing Valve’s website and decided to check out their jobs section because, hey, I’m curious and wouldn’t it be awesome to work at a company that makes video games? On their jobs page you could download a PDF of their New Employee Handbook. Reading it was like stepping into a barrel and seeing the entire universe unfold before you. I feel amazed that a company like Valve exists and flabbergasted that a company like Valve exists.
Valve’s culture and structure bucks the corporate metagame more so then playing Lee Sin in the middle lane. In normal companies, there’s a chain of command with a clear definition of duties and responsibilities. Everyone had a list of things to do and a boss to make sure they do it. In Valve’s case, there’s no boss and no job description. In short, everything is flat and people work on whatever they want. Valve employees are given an unheard of level of freedom.
Want to make a game about shooting zombies? Go ahead and do it! Need some artists and programmers to make it? Just walk up to them and talk them into helping you out! If your game is that awesome, everyone will want to work on it! Is someone else making a game about teleporting and you want in? Just talk with the people working on it already and jump in. It really is that simple. There’s no boss there who’ll say you can’t! Even the desks have wheels on them so everyone can move to the places they need to be. I feel like Jack Rakan is running the place!
Valve’s composition is very unorthodox, so a new employee handbook would be useful. If you put people into an unusual environment, it helps to have something to explain what’s going on and how stuff works. Someone must have decided to create a new employee handbook so that newbies could better understand what it’s like to work at Valve. The first edition of the handbook was born March 2012 and lasted a whole month before it got leaked on the internet. In April 2012, Flamehaus posted it for the whole world to see, and caused quite a stir. Now you can get it on Valve’s website directly, which is how I got it.
When I read it, I was dumbfounded. When I was reading it, I felt like I was watching FLCL. You have no idea how it came to be or how it could happen in the first place but it’s so cool you instantly fall in love with it. It’s amazing because it’s real and actually exists and you could actually work there if you’re awesome enough! It’s a must read for people who like video games, people who study business, or for people who just enjoy readying about awesome places!
I was so amazed by the content I never noticed the humor. I didn’t see that until it was pointed out for me. Besides the text describing the paradise of workplaces, there’s also a collection of pictures, visual guides, and even a glossary full of terms full of subtle jokes. For example, the glossary defines working at home as what to do when a single snowflake falls from the sky.
That would explain why there hasn’t been more Half-Life, or more Valve games in general. I can only assume making more Half-Life would be a large, expensive and time consuming process. People may rather work on something with a better turn around. Another theory is that working on more Half-Life is simply sub optimal. I want that idea to sink in for a minute. The reason they don’t make more of an iconic video game franchise is that they have something better to do. It’s like Kana turning down the chance to interview Girl’s Generation because something better popped up. What could possibly be so important that it trumps something like that? Oh wait, it’s called Steam. You know, Valve’s online PC game service that rakes in money through games like Seto Kaiba.
It’s not all fun and hats though. No place is without it’s flaws; and Valve is no different. First off, there’s no structure so there’s no tutorials to help new people understand what’s going on or training to help others learn new and needed skills. It can also be tough to understand what’s going on general for anyone since there’s no central channel for information, forcing people to have to hunt for info to stay in the loop. A lack of central leadership will also encourage people to focus on short terms goals with obvious gains instead of long term objectives. At least they are aware of these flaws so they can compensate for them.
The greatest obstacle is that Valve’s model is completely, totally, and utterly dependent on finding the right people. While finding the right people is vital for any organization, with Valve this is even more so. Valve needs to hire great compatible people like Urd needs booze. Valve needs to hire the best people like the DearS needs to be of service. I don’t think I can overemphasize this enough. It is literally the center of their universe. When you think of it that way, all of the given perks make perfect sense. Company vacations, laundry services, an extensive snack bar, and even massage rooms are not frivolous displays of excess and wealth but an indispensable tool required to ensure that Valve can get their hands on the best and the brightest.
Naturally, I assume you’ll already be dying to work for Valve. Generally, you’ll be need to be awesome or make awesome things. Valve is looking for “T-shaped” people; that is, people who are capable in a variety of things and possess a deep level of mastery in a particular field. I can also assume you’ll need to able to navigate and thrive in a highly informal organization. If you ultimately end up working at Valve because you read this, do me a favor and talk Gabe Newell into doing a interview here at 91.8 The Fan. I would appreciate it.