What in the world would we HR people have to discuss if Zappos stopped doing things that upend the world of work and make us contemplate tossing age-old beliefs to the curb?
Last year, for those who pay attention to such things, Zappos ended the process of posting jobs and instead began a relationship-based Insiders program (#InsideZappos) wherein they invite people to join the community of other potential Zapponians/Zappites/shoe-people-who-now-belong-to-Amazon. In this community the recruiters, hiring managers, and, for all I know, Tony Hsieh himself, begin building relationships that, for some Insiders, may lead to employment.
This freaked a ton of people out. I liked it but I can’t say I don’t still wonder about things like their actual internal definition of an applicant and how they manage, from an HR standpoint, any claims that arise alleging discrimination or disparate impact and the like. My friend Stacy Zapar who worked with the recruiting team on the development of #InsideZappos has shared a lot of very compelling information about the why, what and how over the past year.
And then there’s the Holacracy experiment. OK, I’m terming it an experiment but it’s actually a commitment. Or perhaps something from which no one will back down.
Last week I read this internal memo that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared with employees (go read it; I’ll wait).
The gist of the matter: Tony and team are moving forward with Holacracy (first announced in 2013) and will now begin offering severance to employees who are not on board with self-organization and self-management. The ultimate “get on the bus with us or get off at the next stop” move.
So, per Tony’s memo, here’s the deal:
- As of 4/30/15, in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.
- In addition, we will begin the process of breaking down our legacy silo’ed structure/circles of merchandising, finance, tech, marketing, and other functions and create self-organizing and self-managing business-centric circles instead by starting to fund this new model with the appropriate resources needed to flourish.
- While we know that the full role of managers will no longer be necessary in a Teal organization, we’re also looking forward to seeing what new exciting contributions will come from the employees who were previously managers.
- All former managers who remain in good standing will still keep their salary through the end of 2015 even though their day-to-day work that formerly involved more traditional management will need to change.
And there’s a LOT more; it’s a long article.
We could debate the pros and cons of Holacracy and whether or not Zappos will succeed with this all day long. There are so many questions and details and possibilities; how fun would it be to sit in a room and debate this stuff? Hella fun in my opinion.
One thing that struck me as an unintentional consequence of this shift to Holacracy is what this will do to people who have, as most people do, some sort of career goals and aspirations.
The average 25 year old, let’s call him Josh, has no intention of spending the next 35 years of his life working at Zappos no matter how freaking entranced he is today. As much as right-now-this-moment he wants to be an #insider and join this intoxicatingly exciting organization he’s still, deep down, going to need to look out for numero uno. Plus, Mom and Dad will remind him (forever) that they didn’t pay for that fancy education for nothing.
Looking out for numero uno includes progressively gaining more responsibility (there’s some language taken from every job description ever written by an HR lady). It means climbing the ladder or sliding along the career lattice from newbie to individual contributor (Levels I, II and III) to team lead to supervisor to manager to middle manager. It means having those titles on his resume.
For without those titles Josh is not going to land somewhere else 5 or 10 or 15 years from now when he decides he wants to manage a team or run a department.
One day, when Josh falls in love with a guy or gal from Charlotte, NC, he’ll find himself moving across the country. Josh, in need of a new gig, will apply to be the Marketing Manager at Acme Corporation, but, after X years at Zappos, the only title he will have on his resume is Marketing Team Member in the A Circle. Which means he won’t receive more than a cursory glance from the Acme Corp. recruiter.
Yup; working at Zappos will mean that Josh will never have the ability to gain experience in decision-making and budgeting responsibility. Josh will spend X years in his profession and he will have gained zero people management skills. Recruiters, the world over, will glance at Josh’s resume and wonder “WTF is this self-directed crap? Did they all work on a commune?”
So I wonder…will those who wish to become ‘Insiders’….reconsider?