No Human Resources

By Brad Wieners  |  Posted 2004-04-30 Print this article Print

Tell me about hiring at Semco.

When you want somebody hired, lets say its for a leadership position of some kind, you go to the system and you advertise that you think someone is needed. Then on a given day—say, Wednesday at 4 oclock, meeting room 11—you say were going to discuss this, whoevers interested. Because of the fundamental tenet that we dont want anyone involved in anything that they really dont want to do, all of our meetings are on a voluntary basis, meaning that the meetings are known, and then whoever is interested can and will show up, and should also leave the moment they become uninterested. It is a bit unnerving to watch these things, because people come in, plunk their things down, and then 15 minutes later somebody else says "Bye bye, see you." But the fact is that whoever is left there has a stake in the decision being made, and the decision is final in the sense that its going to be implemented after the meeting.

You mentioned that the meeting gets announced on a system. Whats that?

A central Web site, which is the way in which everyone communicates or knows whats going on.

Okay, so theres a voluntary, Wednesday, four oclock meeting about the new position and . . . The people who show up put together a template of what are the characteristics that person needs to have, and what is the weight of each of these characteristics. Theyll then go looking for that person by putting an ad in the paper, or through a headhunter. And when the resumes come in, basically, whoever started the whole thing will distribute packs of these resumes to people, because theres no HR department to do it. Youll take ten home, Ill take ten home and Andrew will take ten home, and whatever I wrote A-plus on, for example, Ill give to you, and the rest, well just send a thank you.

Now a lot of things happen in this process. Because 40 of us are looking at ten resumes each, or ten of us are looking at 40 resumes each, Im going to locate people who are not ideal for this job but that could be ideal for another job, and thats something that disappears completely when an HR department does this, because theyre basically screening between yes and no—its a digital response. With our system, were creating an analog response, meaning, maybe this person would be great for I dont know who, and then we send that curriculum vitae on to someone else.

Once weve found ten who had an A-plus out of the 400, we will do a collective interview of all the candidates, which most people dont like, and which I found very strange in the beginning.

Wait. All the candidates get interviewed together?


Id hope my voice was strong that day.

In a system like this, lets say two out of the ten dont speak at all because its not their nature to interrupt. Well, the other five, ten, 15 on our side will want to hear from those two. So at a certain point theyll say, "Brad, you havent spoken at all, what do you have to say?" If what you say is thoughtful, you might be, with your one minutes worth, ahead of everybody else.

Under your set-your-own-hours policy, do employees work fewer hours, or longer and harder?

Last week CNN spent four days with a bunch of our guys probing in all directions, and they concluded that our people balance their lives much better, and that theres an unusually high number of people who take their kids to school, etc. But a recent statistic of ours shows that 27 percent of our people are online on Sunday at 8 p.m.—27 percent. So they probably do work hard.

In some ways its an unforgiving system, because you have to figure out your own answer for how to best spend your time. When you dont come in on Monday morning, absolutely nothing happens. But when youre sitting on the beach Monday morning at 11 oclock, and youre the only one on the beach—thats a different story. Maybe then its worth it to work a little harder. No one really knows how to measure the value of that moment.


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