Valve’s economist discusses studio’s hiring & firing policy

By Dave Cook
26 February 2013 11:21 GMT

Valve’s resident economist Yanis Varoufakis has shed light on the hiring and firing policy at the Seattle company.

Earlier this month we reported that Valve was said to have laid off 25 staff, including prototype engineer Jeri Ellsworth and director of business Jason Holtman.

Speaking with Gamasutra, Varoufakis said of Valve’s staff policy, “The way it works is very simple. Let’s say you and I have a chat in the corridor, or in some conference room, or wherever.

“The result of this chat is that we converge to the view that we need an additional software engineer, or animator, or artist, or hardware person. Or several of them.

“What we can do is, we can send an email to the rest of our colleagues at Valve and invite them to join us in forming a search committee that actually looks for these people without seeking anyone’s permission in the hierarchy, simply because there is no hierarchy.

“And then we form spontaneously the search committee, and then we interview people, first by Skype, and then we bring them in – if they pass the test – to the company for a more face-to-face personalized interview. And anyone who wants to participate does participate.”

On the issue of staff firing, Varoufakis said that he has seen it happen, “It does happen. I’ve seen it happen. And it’s never pretty. It involves various communications at first when somebody’s under-performing, or somebody doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the company.

“In many occasions people simply don’t fit in not because they’re not productive or good people, but because they just can’t function very well in a boss-less environment. And then there are series of discussions between co-workers and the person whose firing is being canvased or discussed.

“And at some point if it seems there is no way that a consensus can emerge that this person can stay, some attractive offer is made to the particular person, and usually there’s an amicable parting of ways.”

We’re still no closer to finding out why staff were supposedly let go earlier this month.

We’ll keep on digging for more.

Thanks Develop.

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