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Radical Human Resources: Four wacky ideas that might just work

Facebook, Google and Apple are among the companies reinventing the HR world

Apr 1, 2014

You’re not Facebook, Google or Apple. You don’t have a high-tech campus in Palo Alto or Seattle, and you’re not some young startup. But just because you’re not in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean you can’t take a page from the companies that are reinventing the world of human resources.

1. Faster, Faster, Hire, Hire

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Illustration Josh Holinaty

Remember that old saying, “Hire slow, fire fast”? Most businesses take that to heart, and hiring typically involves several weeks of job postings, reading resumés and doing dozens of interviews. In industries where demand for skilled workers is high, though, that can mean losing out on promising employees when another company beats you to the offer. Which is why Intel decided that, in some cases, hiring only needs to take a couple of days. Recruiters and managers figure out what they need for a position, and rather than posting it on the job board and waiting for the applications to roll in, they head for job fairs and industry conferences. If the right candidate appro­aches them, Intel gives them an offer letter right then and there. Trivial details like salary and where the position will be located are figured out later on.

Benefits
Get the employees you need, when you need them, without the risk of losing them to competitors
Drawbacks
More likely to miss red flags and less able to ensure a good fit with your organization. Employees may be suspicious of smaller organizations that seem desperate to hire

2. The Best Policy Is No Policy

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Illustration Josh Holinaty

For most companies, two weeks of ­vacation is the standard for new hires. But in 2004, Netflix decided tracking vacation days for its salaried employees was too much unnecessary bureaucracy, and instead adopted a policy – or, rather, a lack of policy – called “Freedom and Responsibility.” In other words: if you’re responsible enough to get your work done, you’re free to take as many days off as you want. In a presen­tation about Netflix’s company culture, CEO Reed Hastings quips, “There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one comes to work naked. Lesson: you don’t need policies for everything.”

Of course, the risk with having no set allotment for vacation is that employees may actually take less time than they would otherwise. Netflix has tried to avoid this by encouraging leaders to take long vacations, and reminding its staff to get out of the office and recharge as well.

“Freedom and Responsibility” extends to other parts of life at Netflix as well. The company’s policy around travel and other expenses is just five words long: “Act in Netflix’s best interest.”

Benefits
Less paperwork, and it turns out employees are so reluctant to be “That Guy” who abuses the (lack of) vacation policy that they actually need to be convinced to take time off
Drawbacks
Since vacation pay is regulated in Canada, records of days taken must be kept so payout at termination can be reconciled

3. Clear as Day

At Buffer, a San Francisco-based startup that produces an app to streamline social media posting, CEO Joel Gascoigne makes US$158,800. Mary Jantsch, a “Happiness Hero” at the 12-person company, has a salary of US$70,000. How do we know this? All salaries are posted publicly on the company blog as part of its “Open Salary” policy. Companies shy away from making compensation public because employees might think differences in pay are unfair, but at Buffer, salaries are determined according to a specific formula based on their job title, seniority, years of experience and the cost of living in their city. If sharing­­ salaries isn’t enough, all of Buffer’s employees wear a Jawbone UP wristband so they can track their sleep habits, nutrition and activity levels … and see how their colleagues are doing.

In nearby Seattle, Rand Fishkin, the CEO of marketing software startup Moz, posted his annual performance review online. Apparently he’s great at marketing and making his team feel valued, but needs to work on giving constructive feedback and keeping a positive attitude. He also blogged in detail about his startup’s negotiations and eventual $18-million venture financing deal with Foundry Group. Many startups are embracing the virtues of “radical transparency,” opening their books to their employees or publicly sharing information private companies typically keep, well, private. Advocates say such openness gives employees, investors and consumers a reason to trust the company, and can be a huge benefit when hiring.

Benefits
Establishes trust, builds a stellar reputation for your company and even helps with hiring
Drawbacks
All that information is also available to your competitors, and sharing salaries can breed jealousy

4. Four Thousand Reasons to Quit

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Illustration Josh Holinaty

According to online shoe retailer Zappos, the best way to make sure your employees want to work for you is to give them an incentive to quit. After new hires complete a five-week training program, they’re given a choice: start your new role, or take US$4,000 to quit. That’s up from US$2,000, which the company found wasn’t enough of an incentive. By offering would-be employees an enticing out, Zappos hopes to ensure the employees who stay are the ones who most love the company and are the best possible fit. Less than three per cent of prospective employees take the offer.

Benefits
Employees who stick with the company tend to be loyal and really enjoy their jobs
Drawbacks
If your organzation doesn’t have a culture worth sticking around for, you’ll probably lose more than three per cent of your new hires
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One Response to Radical Human Resources: Four wacky ideas that might just work

  1. Philip Uglow says:

    These are great points and others, such as Danielle Pink have been talking about their advantages for a while now.

    I would argue that HR doesn’t have the power to push something like this through. This has to come from the senior leadership of the company, not an HR department.

    So come on CEO’s, lets see you do it.

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