🎶 The Fire, by The Roots and John Legend
This week’s Good Work is an excerpt from Ozzie Osman’s “Hiring for Conscientiousness,” an essay on the Holloway blog published this week. Ozzie is co-founder and head of engineering at Monarch Money. He has built products and engineering teams at companies including Quora and Google. Ozzie is the lead author of the Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, out this month.
Conscientiousness is mindfulness guided by conscience.Dr. George Simon*
I’ve spent most of my career in tech (particularly, building software for consumer products), but I had a bit of a detour at one point. I spent a couple of years helping out with my family business in construction manufacturing, spending most of my time handling operations at a precast concrete factory in the industrial city of Helwan outside of Cairo, Egypt.
Management in the manufacturing industry (especially in a country like Egypt) is very different from management in the software industry. The work is a lot less intellectual and a lot more physical. Some of the work at a factory requires a high degree of skill, but it’s usually less about thinking and more about doing—welding, operation/maintenance/repair of equipment, that kind of thing.
A lot of management theory would predict that for these types of more routine, well-defined tasks, rather than inspire employees and give them autonomy, managers should simply use rewards and punishments.* And that’s how that factory worked: people were told what to do, monitored, and given bonuses if they did it well or a docked paycheck if they didn’t (imagine docking a software engineer’s paycheck if they introduced a bug!). Everything was designed around extrinsic, rather than intrinsic, motivation.
So imagine my surprise when I met El-Hajj Yasseen, one of the workshop supervisors. Yasseen showed up early and didn’t leave until his work and his team’s work were done. His shift consistently produced better quality than the other supervisors. If there was a problem, he was on top of it. Other supervisors would bark instructions and threats at their team to get things done. Yasseen’s team was much more organized, and if something wasn’t getting done, he would just do it himself. Yasseen worked hard and he cared about his work. In Arabic, we would say Yasseen had Dhameer—“a conscience.”
Keep reading to learn more about why startups should start hiring for conscientiousness, and how to spot this trait in candidates and employees.
That’s Good Work for this week. Looking forward to what’s next.
The Holloway team