In a world where hiring and career advancement aren’t just about salary anymore, you need to know exactly what you’re offering, and exactly what you’re getting. The barter system offers a way to understand how to make the right choice for your career.

Udacity - Career Success

When it comes to modern hiring, we’re not that far off from something resembling the old barter system. Admittedly, by definition, the barter system is not monetary in nature; it’s about the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services. But in a world where things like work-life balance, flexible scheduling, remote work opportunities, equity shares, and unlimited vacation are all part of the hiring bundle, it’s hard to make the claim that moden hiring is a strictly monetary transaction.

Understanding the hiring process through barter system thinking can be instructive for anyone who’s seeking a new role, a promotion, a raise, or a move to another team.

Barter system thinking

There are two sides to a barter, and each has something to offer. As an employee, you have a bundle that includes your skills, your talents, your experience, and the promise of your positive impact. As an employer, you have a bundle that includes salary, benefits, workplace culture, reputation, mission, and the promise of career advancement. The successful exchange of these bundles is depending on each side believing they’re getting equal or better for their offer. When both sides get what they want, the exchange is made successfully.

Understanding QoH (Quality of Hire) metrics

On the employer side, none of this is unfamiliar territory. There is in fact a very common—and very important—metric that is in widespread use across many industries. It’s called QoH, or Quality of Hire. An article from Workable does a good job explaining the QoH metric:

Definition
Quality of hire (QoH) measures the value new hires bring to a company.

In this context, ‘value’ usually means how much a new hire contributes to their company’s long term success by completing tasks, improving their work and helping others.

As the article goes on to point out, it’s a complicated metric, and the methods companies use to determine it actually speak directly to those non-monetary components of the hiring “bundle” we discussed above. An example the article presents includes indicators like performance, engagement, and culture fit:

QoH = (New hire performance + new hire engagement + culture fit)/3

QoH = (80% + 85% + 90%)/3

QoH = 85%

Understanding how employers go about measuring the quality of a new hire can be extremely useful for you as a means for refining your own sense of your value.

Your employee value prop

Clearly, employers are thinking through issues related to the value a new hire represents, but it’s important that employees do the same. The following three articles each take a slightly different approach to the matter, but they’re each exhorting you to to clearly understand the value you represent as a prospective hire:

Understanding your value—both as you see it, and as a company sees it—is critical for determining whether or not to go forward with a hiring “barter.” It’s also imperative that you understand the company’s value, and the value of what they’re bringing to the table. And remember, this is subjective. It depends on your personal goals. What is a great offer for you may be terrible one for someone else.

Work values

To make the right choice, you need to understand your “work values”; i.e. what you want from your job. Monster offers some great insights on this subject as well. In a post entitled Understanding your work values can help you find the perfect job, the author breaks work values down into “Intrinsic Values” and “Extrinsic Values”:

Intrinsic values
These are the intangible rewards that keep you motivated and engaged at your job. In a nutshell, intrinsic values are what make you wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work, even when the weather’s lousy.

Extrinsic values
These are the tangible rewards or conditions you find at work, including the office setting, vacation policy, and earnings potential

As you prepare to “do barter” with a prospective employer, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done your homework ahead of time, so you go into the experience with a solid sense of who you are, what you offer, and what you want.

When to make the exchange, and what to do when a barter fails

When all is said and done, and both sides have done their due diligence, the actual bartering can begin. As an employee, you can’t control what the company does, but if the company isn’t convinced of your worth, and/or doesn’t bring what you want to the table, you have four options:

  1. Accept a lesser offer, and proceed with the “exchange.”
    (i.e. take the job, despite it not being perfect)
  2. Refuse the offer, and go looking elsewhere.
    (i.e. try to find another company that will give you the offer you want)
  3. Refuse the offer, and give up on trying to make this kind of “exchange.”
    (i.e. stop trying to get hired as whatever it is you’re trying to get hired as)
  4. Modify your side of the “exchange.”
    (i.e. learn more skills, or build more experience, or otherwise do things to increase your value)

In a scenario where it’s you that’s not sure about the company, the employer has roughly the same range of options. They can give you a better offer. Or, they can refuse to budge, and go looking for a different candidate who will accept their offer. Or, they can refuse to budge, and give up trying to hire someone. Or, finally, they can try and find ways to make their company more desirable to new hires.

It’s not just about salary anymore

Understanding hiring and career advancement—and all the negotiations that are part and parcel with the process—as versions of a barter system can help you make the right choice for your career, because in a world where it’s not just about salary anymore, you need to know exactly what you’re offering, and exactly what you’re getting.