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When cool HR policies become plain stupid 5

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Peter Thompson

I recently read an article about a company in the USA that appears to have some pretty “cool” HR policies in place.

Let’s say, they were cooler than the HR policies of some of the other ultra cool IT companies that reside in the USA.

On face value, there is a decent ideology behind their HR policies but on deeper analysis there is perhaps a fair amount of, say, marketing bull. Can I say that? Let’s take a look at some of their ideologies.

1. Always hire people smarter than you are – Now, I think that is a great idea in principle but it’s going to be a serious challenge and most likely very expensive.

How about the cleaner? Does that level of intelligence apply to all positions in the company and does it mean that the boss in charge is the least intelligent person in the company?

2. Speak up – I completely agree with having a way for all to express their ideas and concerns.

3. Have fun – This is actually really important and fairly obvious. We spend a lot of time working and we should enjoy it. Providing a wholesome environment for work is really important but there must come a point where the fun has a tipping point don’t you think?

4. Unlimited vacation and working from home policy – Now, how about that? I would love to read the employment agreement.

In one paragraph, they mention how the CTO is really good at Street Fighter II. I just wonder what kind of precedence directors or senior people in a business set when they actually are elite gamers.

What would you think if the director of the company you work in was regularly playing Street Fighter II? Can you imagine the conversation in the office?

Employee – “CTO, We need you in the meeting, it’s 10 am. The board is ready.”

CTO – “Dude, I am about to kill Tyson.”

Employee – “Can you teach me how to do that?”

CTO – “Sure thing. Stick around. They can wait.”

The intriguing aspect is when you click on the about us on the company website, you can almost predict the content. Yep, you guessed it. “We are funded by some of America’s most respected investors and so far we have raised $95 million.” Now the HR policies makes sense. It’s because they are spending someone else’s money.

It’s incredible because anyone who has actually started a business with their own money doesn’t start with a policy of unlimited holidays for all employees. In theory it sounds like a good idea until someone takes advantage of it and then what?

You can also bet that at a normal company, the job descriptions of new employees do not include exceptional street fighter skills.

I do question sometimes how business is done in America.

I wonder what their business plan might have looked like. Just like other Silicon Valley failures with radical HR strategies, it’s hard to keep up with the endless list of supposed benefits or rooms designed to promote cool or unparalleled creative thinking.

Some spruik about foosball or air hockey tables. Some have dart boards, unlimited stocked coke refrigerators, bars, lazy boys and bean bags.

I think the equivalent in the past was fitness or golf club memberships. Expense accounts were also a benefit associated with good results. Unfortunately, the government put a stop to fringe benefits which made it more difficult to provide value added benefits for employees working in a company.

To be fair, it’s not just America. We have our fair share of dodgy IT companies that are proud of losing $20 million a year yet they are optimistic about the future.

For many of the hard core business people with normal businesses, it is hard to stomach this pattern of deception.

The perfect deception is the combination of a “sophisticated investor” which is a term for an uber rich person, a broker earning a percentage of the “investment” and a company seeking investment. Clearly, it is in the brokers interest to make the deal whether it’s moral or not.

The odd thing is that companies that have dull, sound business plans and make profit year on year don’t attract investment as much as those with let’s say radical stories. It seems the fundamentals of the business aren’t quite as important as the story.

I have wondered whether it’s worth putting together a business plan that is based on the principles of cool but even more cool that any cool before it. The broker could then spruik how the business plan is to have a spa, tanning studio, elaborate 18th century dining room, games centre, putt putt golf and a wet bar.

On the HR side, we would definitely include unlimited free massage, waiters and a no-turn-up policy if you don’t feel like it.  Because that way, it would be the craziest, most stupid, thought inspiring company ever dreamt of.

Maybe, someone will give us 100 million dollars to go and execute it.

And when it fails, well, we can just blame the interior designer and start again.

I do get the concept of providing a wholesome working environment. Having the right equipment, furniture, light, cleanliness and all those attributes are really important. Having open communication channels, being listened to and recognised for achievement are absolutely critical in a happy workplace.

At GCOMM, many of our team members have been engaged for more than 10 years.

We have seen many of our team start in their teens, buy houses, get married and start families. Many of the gang spend time together with each other’s kids. We go ten pin bowling together. Some meet at the beach, surf, go for a picnic and four wheel driving together.

The purpose of GCOMM is to provide a safe working environment where people can push their limits, grow, lead and reach their goals. It’s quite a challenge to stay ahead of such a smart group of people and to continuously find ways to keep everyone engaged, attended to and cared for.

We do manage to cater as team members start families, move cities within Australia, overseas and more. We adapt by changing our technology, software and our systems. We do focus on numbers and results. You see, I don’t know a good company that doesn’t make a profit.

We respect the overall culture. It’s nice to know that your colleagues have got your back covered and that the company genuinely cares.

Perhaps we will never have a spa in our office, but we will strive to provide security, understanding and an environment that fosters growth and opportunity. I am proud of that, the values we stand for and we try to instill those values into new team members.

Just out of interest, can we get some really cool ideas going here for the office? This new business plan idea has got me excited. How about an indoor dodgem car track at the reception?

♦ End

About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • Steve Cannard

    1st Idea. Move the boardroom to the break at Burleigh. We can discuss budgets and KPI’s between sets..

  • Matt Thompson

    2nd idea a recording studio so we can use the left side brain more at work

  • Adam

    I think there is a lot of truth in what you are saying, except for when the business does become a huge success and the unorthodox nature of the environment has contributed to the creativity resulting in the “golden” ideas. Hard to quantify of course… But the weird thing about “App” businesses (2010 and beyond) as opposed to “dotCom” businesses (late 90s early 2000), is they do generate immediate revenues and profits when they go viral with near zero expense bases, utilising global platforms for distribution. This is all a huge contracts to traditional business models which are just unable to fathom. Check this out …

    A melting pot for app development with pretty much every HR policy outlaw you could imagine, love the position titles! 🙂

  • Vlada Milanovic

    What if the company is in the gaming industry? And to spice up things, what if the company is behind new Street Fighter development? Then all these things you mention would have much more sense.:) There are multiple angles to every story…