W. L. Gore & Associates is a company that has long fascinated me as its consistently been voted a great workplace.
I know that it’s employee owned and had heard that no-one has a job title and that innovation and creativity is encouraged but that was the extent of my knowledge until last week when I was invited along to a talk being given by Paul Jones who has worked with the company for 18 years. So what makes it such a great workplace?
Paul was incredibly positive about his employer. He’s previously worked for a hierarchical company so admitted that the first few months required a period of adjustment. What was also very interesting was the recruitment process that he had gone through. Gore place great emphasis on recruiting the right people not just in terms of skill and experience but also in terms of cultural fit. So Paul was not only interviewed by senior people and peers but he also had to participate in a Q&A session with the people in the team he was being hired to lead.
Paul emphasised how important personal relationships are at the company and stated that they lead people and manage tasks. Leadership is fluid in the organisation as you can only be a leader if people are prepared to follow you.
Belief in Individual
Trust was mentioned often during this talk; people are trusted to do the right thing. There is belief in the individual and in helping them find their sweet spot where there is an overlap between business need/ their interest and motivation and their skills and experience. A lot of time is spent on personal development. People are expected to take responsibility for their career progression and will have a sponsor within the company to challenge and support them.
Power of Small Teams
The power of small teams is also recognised. There is shared ownership of projects and accountability to one another to make a difference. People at Gore believes that this leads to faster decision making than would be found in hierarchical organisations.
Everyone in the Same Boat
Another key principle is the concept of everyone being in the same boat. Decisions are made that are in the best interests of the company and success is shared by all associates.
Taking a Long Term View
Finally, they take a long term view which means that they can allow time for innovation and decisions can be made that are better for the long term health of the company.
W. L. Gore & Associates is a wonderful example of a great workplace. Lets hope that more companies begin to move away from rules and bureaucracy and instead focus on enabling their people to reach their full potential.