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HR at the world's most innovative companies

September 7th, 2017

The companies that have risen high enough on the competitive food chain to be considered market leaders each take a different approach to maintaining their positions. But while business priorities may vary, there's one thing that is essential to sustaining an edge in every industry: the ability to effectively attract and retain talent. The practices that the market leaders have developed to achieve this are worth studying for small businesses.


The first case study comes from the world's leading social network. Like other tech giants, Facebook takes advantage of its brand awareness and high profit margins to attract top-tier talent. But the company's HR personnel nonetheless have their work out cut for them. They're expected to pick out the most talented individuals from the immense number of professionals who show interest, which requires a multi-stage vetting process.

Facebook recruiting head Miranda Kalinowski detailed how it looks in an interview last year. In the first round, the company performs two phone interviews: one with a recruiter and another with an employee who knows the requirements of the position on the line. This addresses the fact that the HR salary department can't be expected to be familiar with every nuance of every job at a company.

It's possible to apply Facebook's approach even if you don't have the manpower to spare for employee-led interviews. Workers could prepare a cheat sheet of things that the HR department should look for. Then once it's time to invite the selected candidates for an in-person chat, another Facebook practice can help confirm that the initial impression was correct. The social network gives job-seekers a casual office tour to make them comfortable before the interview and ensure that they put their skills on full display.

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General Electric

GE is another high-profile company that has moved off the beaten HR path. According to Quartz, the industrial giant uses a management system dubbed "teaming" that gives employees a direct say on what happens in the workplace.

Personnel from each team sit on councils alongside company leaders, including HR representatives, so that important decisions can be made collaboratively. These councils among others vote on who should be promoted or fired and how overtime is handled. Bringing workers into the fold has the effect of avoiding the conflicts that can arise when decisions are made without feedback from the rank-and-file. This in turn helps increase employee morale, which has been shown to drive higher productivity.

Another way such an open approach can be beneficial is by providing company leaders with new perspectives. Members of the rank-and-file often possess valuable insight into workplace challenges, but don't always have a way to share their knowledge. A collaborative decision-making process creates an avenue for discussion that lets employees to communicate problems to the relevant executives and HR personnel.


Intuit may not star the Fortune 500 list like GE and Facebook, but it's a force to be reckoned with in the tech industry. The firm's cloud-based accounting and tax preparation services generated $4.7 billion in revenue last year off more than 1.8 million subscribers. Moreover, it consistently ranks among the best workplaces in the US thanks to a strong company culture.

One of the core pillars of Intuit's employee engagement strategy is Spotlight, an awards program that has been the subject of a Stanford case study. It's designed to not merely foster a healthy competition in the office but also maintain employee morale. To that end, Intuit makes sure to routinely recognize good work. Personnel can receive perks for strong sales performance, referring a hire, proposing feature ideas and a variety of other tasks that benefit the organization.

Moreover, Intuit mixes up the rewards to keep the incentive strong. One type of achievement may be recognized with a bonus, while another could get the recipient extra time to work on a project. Intuit has also set up a system that makes it easy for employees to commend one another when they exceed expectations in everyday tasks.

Even on a smaller scale, a consistent awards program with a healthy lineup of incentives can make a big impact on employee engagement. Workers who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to quit according to Gallup, which means that there's much to be gained on the retention front by acknowledging productivity.