SpaceX certainly makes headlines for their achievements in space exploration, but they have also ranked in Glassdoor’s best places to work and top CEOs lists, making both lists in 2017 and 2018. Unmatched excitement, a lack of red tape, an unusual hiring process, and too much work make this an interesting study in hiring practices. Read on to learn more. One hiring lesson you don’t want to miss out on is using our free online recruiting system from Recruiteze. Our powerful online hiring software makes hiring easy. Get started today!
People are happier, more loyal, and more productive when they are excited about their work, and SpaceX has excitement comes out of their pores.
There’s going to be a lot of glowing reviews scattered over this post to make other points, but here is one Glassdoor review to get you started in the excitement vein:
“If you’re looking for work with meaning then it probably doesn’t get better than SpaceX. You’re lucky to be working at one of the only companies really shaking up the industry. We don’t just talk big, we make it happen. Lots of people are super driven here.
If you’re highly motivated and ambitious then you can accomplish a lot at SpaceX. No one is going to stop you, there’s way too much work to do.”
And Josh Boehm, a former employee, who only left because his own business took off, and still misses SpaceX, wrote,
“The job satisfaction and team camaraderie is like nowhere else. Every time there is a launch, everyone crowds around mission control and cheers it on. Getting your mission patch after a launch was always a very satisfying feeling. If there was ever a failure, you definitely felt it in the air, but it wouldn’t stop any of us from working or demotivate us. The pride for the company is unbelievable. How do you spot a SpaceX employee? They’re covered head to toe in company swag, and keeps mentioning how they work for SpaceX. To be fair though, it is the only job I have really worked that has had a fan base. More often than you’d think people would come up to me off the street, at bars, at the airport or anywhere in public if I was wearing my badge or any SpaceX gear. If you’re a fan of the company, I would encourage you to do the same. I always loved talking to people about my job.”
#2. A Lack of Red Tape
SpaceX is also exceptional for their open, non-hierarchical, and freeing company culture.
A Glassdoor review titled, Literally a Dream Job, described it,
“There is not a lot of red-tape to prevent you from getting actual work done. Everyone here is trusted to make smart decisions so we spend time focusing on the goal rather than getting hung up on the little things. Everyone here is approachable and relaxed so it makes the workplace feel like somewhere you actually want to be every day.”
Boehm told us more about the accessibility of upper management and CEO Elon Musk himself,
“SpaceX has become quite a large organization over the last few years, yet it still maintains a startup mentality and feel. Despite its size there’s a fairly flat organizational structure. For example, I reported to the CIO, which was only a couple levels down from Elon.”
“There are almost no private offices, as just about everyone has a cubicle, including Elon. “
“Communication is very open, and even Elon is approachable if you have a good reason. Anyone in the company could email or talk to him.”
#3. Unique Hiring Process
SpaceX is a difficult place to get a job because they put everyone through a grueling number of phone and face-to-face interviews. It’s worse than it sounds: the candidate must speak to pretty much everyone they’re going to be working with, and the hire ends if just one person is doubtful about the candidate.
The good news is that Boehm credited this hiring process as the reason the company enjoys such high quality talent. It also stands to reason that this process also aids teamwork. If you know at the get go that everyone is onboard with working together, that’s got to be powerful.
While that many interviews, and the fear of being rejected, is daunting, SpaceX still made Glassdoor’s Best Places to Interview list in 2017 with 74% positive reviews. It must not be nearly as bad as it comes off.
The picture is not all rosy though, Boehm revealed that the hiring process puts extra work on an already overworked staff.
“It was frustrating at times because when I was leading software quality assurance it was very difficult for me to get the resources I needed to expand and get additional help.”
#4. Working too Hard
There is a lot of happening at SpaceX. While all that action is exciting and fun, it is also too much work for the individual workers. Employees have higher workloads than can really be completed well, have to work overtime to reach targets, and their work/life balance and family responsibilities go out the window. Even those who enjoy the work can’t sustain the lifestyle.
Here are some more reviews to illustrate the point.
This is from Glassdoor:
Interesting product, If you like to work lots of hours, this is the place.
No work/Family Balance. Expect to work holidays. Deceptive hiring practices.
Advice to Management
Move to 3 shifts instead of 2 burnt out shifts.”
And here are a few from Indeed:
- “Awesome company, not great for personal life
This is an extremely exciting place to work but there is little to no regard for personal restrictions. Demanding, competitive and limited advancement for roles outside of engineering.
“No life. High stress.
– More work than the minimal staff can handle. Overworked, below average pay. Not a good job for a family person. Constant back and forth between night and day shift.
No time to spend it.”
– “Fast paced and exciting place to work.
Great place to work! Great benefits, good pay and plenty room to grow with in the company. Demands a lot of overtime and weekend work. A good work/life balance is hard to achieve.
Great benefits and decent pay
Lots of required overtime”
#5. When Employee Satisfaction Goes Awry
You may have noticed that even those complaining about the hours still talked about how exciting the work is. The employees at SpaceX are often okay with the ridiculously long hours, because their work is fun. In a review, one employee admitted to being a workaholic.
While it’s great that the employees enjoy their work, that they are not only okay with the company culture, but encouraging it, that doesn’t mean that what’s happening is actually okay. Sometimes the person in charge needs to discourage a natural inclination when it grows out of hand, for the employees’ and company’s benefit.
Boehm described working at SpaceX:
“While no one will be forcing you to, you’ll end up working crazy long hours just to keep up with your workload, and because you don’t want to leave. A phrase I’ve heard thrown around SpaceX frequently is that everyone is their own slave driver. I was frequently there late at night for my job and I never really felt alone. The factory is always alive and cranking out rockets no matter what time of day or night you go there.”
These two reviewers on Glassdoor said:
The output of every person seems like 2-3 times more than anywhere I’ve ever worked. Partially because it is expected and partially because everyone loves what they do.”
With so many highly passionate, driven people, tensions often run high. People will defend their points of view, you’ll defend yours, and it’s tough keeping your cool. Picking which battles to fight and which to let go. The overall mission does help us keep perspective, but on a personal level it is non-stop ups and downs. You watch people hold on until they get fed up and flung off.
Also people work a lot here. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Space is cool, being a part of it is cool. But it’s easy to overwork yourself without knowing it. This plus the above can lead to quick burnout. Personally I’m continually riding the edge of what I can handle, but I’m driven to a fault, that’s the kind of people here.”
Here’s an example from Indeed that also describes happily overworking:
“You must be committed, and be willing to work long hours plus weekends. 5 years is about the average length of time for most before burn out sets in. But the experience gained here is unlike any other.”
SpaceX’s careers page attracts this type of worker. It’s solely about the excitement of the work and details about the work that will be performed.
Here’s a quote from Elon Musk on the page,
“SpaceX is like Special Forces… we do the missions that others think are impossible. We have goals that are absurdly ambitious by any reasonable standard, but we’re going to make them happen. We have the potential here at SpaceX to have an incredible effect on the future of humanity and life itself.”
If there’s a benefits list anywhere, it must be difficult to find, and the only mention of diversity this writer has found is the required “equal opportunity workplace” statement. Not that one necessarily has to check these things off a list when creating a careers page or anything, it’s just that most companies do include these points, and in light of employee comments, it seems to represent something important. The excitement of the goal is paramount, everything else about company culture deserves only the barest mention.
In truth, the reality is better than the careers page suggests, Boehm wrote that,
“Around the office there’s some fun stuff like free FroYo and coffee, some arcade games, a masseuse (my favorite perk), a relaxation room, and more. Whenever there’s a space themed movie coming out, we’ll usually buy out all the tickets for a couple showings and send the whole company. I went to see the Martian with SpaceX (it was my last week there, so I still got the free tickets). Oh and SpaceX parties are insane. Elon knows how to throw company Christmas party! They’re usually so big that they have rickshaws drive you around the party.”
And an employee review on Glassdoor included:
“So many Perks:
Frozen Yogurt Bar
But there is an avalanche of comments about the workload and employees are still getting burnout. The benefits are a positive, but apparently they are not enough to actually create a healthy, sustainable environment. People have to be healthy to be able to do what they’re excited about.
Working too hard will hinder employee wellness, and sustained productivity requires wellness, which means the fun is going to end. A more sustainable productivity strategy would allow everyone to enjoy what they do, get work done, and keep doing it in the long-term. One of the reviews above stated that you can only work there so long before “burnout” sets in.
Even employees who want to keep working at SpaceX have to stop because they simply can’t do it anymore. And that’s just sad.
SpaceX is a highly motivated workplace, maybe a little too motivated, since employees are willingly working until they “burnout.” The lack of red tape and hierarchy creates a relaxed and minimally big-business atmosphere that is good for innovation. The company also has an unusual hiring process that fosters a higher level of talent and teamwork, but may have drawbacks. Use this unique company as an excellent study in management of employee engagement that has reached an extreme peak, a non-hierarchical company structure, and testing out hiring processes based on your company’s own culture.
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