Facebook’s Way: Transparency, Openness, and a Knack For Solving Problems

Last of four parts

Here are the last of Facebook’s unique, amazing, and incredibly effective talent management practices. You need to read all four parts of this series (and Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 can be found here) to truly understand just what this company is doing.

Within 15 months of its IPO, Facebook’s average employee was producing over $1.3 million in revenue and $120,000 in profit each year. Glassdoor.com has rated Facebook the No. 1 company for employee satisfaction, and its employees rate CEO Mark Zuckerberg No. 1 with an almost perfect 99 percent approval rating.

My primary contribution in this case study is to provide insight into the business reasoning behind each of its unique practices. The 44 plus Facebook features I focus on in this series are separated into 10 different categories, and see if you don’t agree that they are both unique and extraordinary.

Transparency and openness are emphasized

40.  “Be open” — Facebook is clear that externally, it believes that a more open world is a better world, but it also believes that openness should also apply to its company culture. If you believe that informed people make better decisions and have a greater impact, it makes sense to emphasize “we work hard to make sure everyone at Facebook has access to as much information about the company as possible.”

An open-book management approach is also another way to reveal that management trusts its employees. This is a practice that wouldn’t be found at other firms like Apple.

41.  All-hands meetings encourage openness – Facebook’s openness is illustrated on most Friday afternoons when the CEO makes himself available in an open to an all-employees, Q&A meeting. During that session, the CEO listens to ideas and he answers all questions from the employees. Most who describe him say that there is often a healthy exchange of often contrasting perspectives.

Unique practices for solving corporate problems

42.  War rooms for the sprint to ship – Toward the end of a project when a team is “sprinting” toward a product shipping date, a dedicated war room can be set up. The war room ensures that the team has a dedicated workspace, but it also sends a message to all others that this project is important, so they should support the final sprint. Some even use a countdown clock so that everyone knows unambiguously when they must deliver.

43.  Hackathon a chance to build something – “Hacking” is a core value of Facebook. The rule for these anything goes sessions is to build something that is “not your day job,” which makes them more fun.

Hackathons, which are eight-hour, all-night employee driven large group sessions that begin in the mid evening and don’t end till the wee hours of the morning. They aren’t just brainstorming sessions where employees offer new product concepts, because there is a requirement that they end with a developed rough prototype.

Many of their products including the “Like” thumb, comment tagging, timeline, chat, Facebook videos, and their photo product, came initially from these sessions.

44.  “Project Mayhem” — Facebook recently added a “project mayhem” event to supplement the more traditional Hackathons. The initial event attracted a couple hundred employees. These longer 27-hour sessions begin at 11 am one day and continue until 2 pm.

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The longer time frame will give engineers more time to “facilitate the development of mobile products specifically, which often require more careful planning and development than Web-based products.” At the event’s conclusion, engineers get three minutes to pitch their ideas on stage during the prototype forum.

Final thoughts

It is hard for many to justify labeling a firm that is still in its infancy, like Facebook, as a great firm, and one that is in the same league as Apple, Amazon, and Google.

I disagree. Facebook does deserve its place on the virtual “Talent Management Hall of Fame List” because of its many thoroughly thought out and unique approaches to talent management. Its unique talent practices like boot camp onboarding, Hackamonth, Hackathons, acqui-hiring, unlimited sick days, not requiring a college degree, and of course the free ice cream shop set them apart from every other firm.

Its real triumph and strength lies in its laser focus. Unlike many great firms that try to do numerous things in many diverse areas, Facebook is laser focused on connecting the world together. Unlike any of the other 250 plus firms that I have worked with, every employee and leader from the top down to the bottom seems to know exactly what the role of the company is and how they contribute to it.

Every time I visit Facebook I am struck by the energy, focus, sense of urgency, and the desire to be first every time. I have yet to meet anyone there with a big ego, and in my experience, the lack of obvious corporate politics matches the low levels you find at companies like W.L. Gore and Zappos. The level of openness and employee trust is second to none, as is its willingness to try new things in talent management that can’t be benchmarked because no one else has ever tried them before.

After reading this four-part case study, you might not agree with all of its practices or even feel comfortable with them, but you have to admit that taken together, they are unique and they have produced some amazing results in an incredibly short period of time.

After scoring No. 1 on Best Places to Work list, and No. 1 with the most effective CEO, you have to admit that there’s something going on at Facebook that is simply amazing.

Did you miss Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3? Then check out Facebook’s Talent Management Practices? They’e Simply AmazingFacebook’s Focus: Smart Talent Practices (the Smarter, the Better), and Facebook’s Difference: A Unique Approach For Managing Employees.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



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