Only 11% of Designers Work for the Mission of the Company. That's Sad.

I received an email from Comparably the other day with a number of survey questions answered by designers that visit the site. The questions ranged from whether or not you have a mentor at work, to how many full-time jobs you’ve had in the previous five years. Typical job and career survey stuff.

One of the questions, however, is straight up terrifying. When asked about the main reason designers stay at their current company, only 11% said it was because of “Company Mission”.

11%. That’s horrifying.

Comparably email screenshot

There’s a whole lot wrong with the answers given to this question, but let’s start with the mission issue. At the end of the day, work is about meaning. Working is about creating meaning in the world, and meaning for yourself. It’s about doing something bigger than yourself, and becoming part of something larger. Ultimately, we work to make an impact.

Well, 11% of us do, anyway.

Let’s be clear on this: having people onboard in your company who believe in the mission of what you’re doing is paramount, compared to other factors. These are the people who drive innovation, who work their asses off for you, and who are laser-like focused on helping row the boat in a single, ruthless direction. The others in the company who don’t fall into that camp, are, frankly, deadwood. They’re detracting (whether actively or passively) from those trying to drive the company ahead. You want as few of those people around as possible.


Finding skilled people is great. The designer or dev, or whatever, who’s insanely talented technically does incredible things for a company. But, 10 talented technicians won’t have the kind of impact that 1 passionate acolyte will. You can always teach skills (and frankly, technical skill is probably overrated at times, compared to passion and dedication), but you can’t teach allegiance to the mission. Find those people first.

Also, take another look at that chart above. 22% (2x those working for the mission) of people are there for the compensation and benefits. This group is the most expensive to keep around, and the most fickle. A better offer elsewhere? They’re gone, with nary a thought about you and what corner of the world you’re trying to conquer. That 11% minority though? They’re in it for the cause, for the climb, and compensation and benefits (while great, and should be as good as you can muster) aren’t the driving factor of their involvement. That means you’re more likely to keep those folks around longer, as they’re lower risk, and thus, lower cost to you.

Another horrifying number from this chart is the 35% that work for “comfort and familiarity”. These folks are like a slow-growing cancer, probably not aggressively killing the organization, but slowly dragging it down into mediocrity. These are the folks who, at meetings, resist new bold ventures, because they’re not comfortable. These are the folks who don’t come up with the crazy ideas that might either catapult you into stardom, or careen you into irrelevancy. They’re just there, slowly plodding along, hoping that no one asks them to do something they’re not 100% comfortable with doing. Clock punchers.

These numbers are startling, and reveal an incredibly sad truth: people don’t work to make a dent in the world, they work just to survive, counting down days until the weekend, hoping no one asks them to do something wild. They’re just hopping from company to company, hoping to eek out another 10% on their salary and three more vacation days. Sure, they’re probably not keeping their oars out of the water, but they’re not rowing the boat with the same fervent passion that the rest of the crew is. Adding weight, but not adding more energy that than weight consumes.

As a business owner, in 2017, hire less of these people. Your interviews should focus more on the “why” questions than the “what” questions. Spend less time asking people to solve tricky riddles on a whiteboard, and more time asking them to tell you their vision for the company, and how they envision themselves playing a part in it.

And, as talent, in 2017, stop paycheck hopping. When you find something where your passion syncs up with the mission of the company, you’ll be on fire. Ironically, when you do that, salary and benefits will naturally follow, so those 22% end up getting what they’re after (and more) anyway.

Be in the 11%.

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