What Every Startup Can Learn From Valve’s Employee Handbook [Video]


Last April, Valve’s employee handbook was leaked online and quickly spread to the far corners of the Internet.  The reason? The handbook illustrates, in detail, what makes Valve such an unorthodox company.  The company’s makeup includes a truly flat structure, no titles, a modular physical structure and an intense focus on hiring the “right” kind of people.  


After reading the handbook, which you can now find on Valve’s own website, it’s easy to see why the company has been so successful at creating unique, game changing products, and why they’ve also had a difficult time sticking to schedules.  Watch the video to learn a few ways your company could benefit from doing things the Valve way.


If Valve Software’s employee handbook isn’t required reading for every MBA program, it should be.  This successful company – think over 3 million copies of their game, Portal 2, sold in 2 months kind of successful – operates with no managers, no bosses and no required scrum meetings.  Instead, all employees make decisions, choose their projects and use their talents to make the company successful.  Here’s what every manager should learn from the Valve handbook.

1. Leverage Strengths – The Valve handbook says employees should ask themselves, “What leverages my individual strengths the most?”  When you are divvying up responsibilities on a project, focus on the strengths of your team as well as your own.  Leverage strengths rather than trying to mediate weaknesses.  According to a Gallup poll on workplace satisfaction, employees are happiest when they are doing what they do best at their job.

2. Talk to People All the Time – The Valve handbook says that in order to find out what’s going on you should follow 4 steps: “Talk to someone in meetings, talk to someone in the elevator, talk to someone in the kitchen, talk to someone in the bathroom.”  At your own company, don’t wait to be recruited, go out and find great projects for you and your team by talking to people in the company.

3. The Best Team Structures Happen Organically – On the point of team leaders, the Valve handbook says, “Project teams often have an internal structure that forms temporarily to suit the group’s needs.”  Rather than always assigning project leaders, let your task team structure itself on its own.  Unlikely leaders with new innovative ideas are more likely to be revealed.

4. Hiring is Your Most Important Choice – Reports vary, but a bad hire can easily cost your company tens of thousands of dollars.  A bad hire is wasted training and they will also bring down the rest of your team, killing productivity and profits.  You’re better off hiring contract workers for busy times and only hiring full-time help when you find that perfect person.  At Valve, the company handles all hiring decisions with the utmost attention.  The handbook goes as far as to say, “Hiring well is the most important thing in the universe. Nothing else comes close.”

Reprinted by permission.

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