Peter Platzer is CEO of Spire, a space (nanosatellite) and data startup company (I can’t pretend I understand what they do). When I first read about him in 2015, he had just over 40 employees . . . and had never fired anyone from his company.
Not a bad achievement for an organisation that doesn’t believe in performance reviews and organisation charts, and which doesn’t assume that all employees want to progress to be managers.
But Mr Platzer is clear. He doesn’t lower the performance bar simply to accommodate an employee, and in his words, he doesn’t “coddle people.” I understand that in addition, it’s not that easy to get into Spire – applicants have a less than 1% chance of being hired. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mr Platzer isn’t averse to firing someone – it seems he prefers to work hard so he doesn’t have to.)
So what helps people who work for Spire to grow, and to continue to love what they do? I wonder if it might have something to do with this:
- Mr Platzer was a career coach at Harvard Business School for 15 years
- The recruitment process takes around two weeks, focusing in on people who might do well in Spire’s culture
- A 200-question career test helps to identify long-term career goals and preferred business activities; jobs are then structured around these answers – so the roles are defined by employees, not business needs
- Every employee takes part in a quarterly coaching discussion aimed at supporting their progression and making sure that their jobs and work activities are still aligned with their interests and goals – questions cover what they enjoy most and least about their job, what skills they’d like to gain, and how the organisation can help them to achieve that
Personalised career coaching seems to figure large in this company, and I realise that not every organisation has the luxury of being able to work in this way. But when the cost of replacing an employee is considered to be anything up to 60% of their annual salary, doesn’t a degree of 1:1 coaching and a personal touch make sense?
So, that person in your team who you’re thinking is a little difficult, who doesn’t fit in, who’s fairly close to being managed out . . . if you thought about it carefully, could you manage them in so that you’re both winners?