It’s the story of a boys’ dream. Stijn Nijhuis and Koen van Geffen were childhood neighbors. They started their company in the attic and now run a successful international business that’s scaling up fast. Nowadays 425 employees are working with Holacracy.
The company is called Enreach, a name they launched just two weeks ago (October 2019) to cover all the activities of this melting pot of companies. The company started as ‘Voiceworks’ (later Within Reach Group and now Enreach).
In 2020 Enreach will open a new headquarters in Almere because currently the people that work in Almere are allocated in three different offices. From the attic to a big office with all glass windows. From two bold and brave guys to serious business with over 760 employees in 10 countries on a journey to ‘Create Contact Magic’ for roughly 2 million end users.
The decision to adopt Holacracy
When the company started to grow the decision-making process was still very clear and lots of people were involved with every decision that was being made. But when more people joined the company the decision-making process became slower because there might be 12 up to 15 people in the room whom all had to agree.
Stijn read the book Getting Teams Done and decided to do the Holacracy Practitioner Training together with Koen. Their enthusiasm grew. They made the call that the company would start to self-organize Holacracy style. Therefore 2,5 years ago Stijn and Koen signed the Holacracy Constitution as a clear sign that from that day on work would be organized by practicing Holacracy.
Why Stijn and Koen decided to adopt Holacracy:
- to keep the organization feel like ‘a start-up’ everybody to take ownership and initiatives
- to keep their employees engaged
- everybody to grow and develop to get out the best.
And meanwhile, scale-up!
New companies were bought and brought into the Voiceworks way of working. New challenges emerged. Global teams were formed. Not every company adopted Holacracy.
So now there are 3 flavors of working:
- traditional management hierarchy
- kind of a mix; self-organizing within the team but in a hierarchical environment.
Nowadays this results in 425 employees working with Holacracy. Although Holacracy fits the DNA of the company it continues to be a means to an end. Therefore some companies that are being bought and that are thriving with a traditional management hierarchy are not forced to change the way they work.
How employees deal with the introduction of Holacracy
When Holacracy was first introduced some people liked it; the early adopters. There was also a big group of enthusiastic people, but they needed to get used to it. The third group of people said ‘well, it’s not my cup of tea or my and my flavor’.
Stijn shares, “What you see now, after almost three years, is that those people who really say ‘it’s not my cup of tea’; they left the organization. And now it’s part of our recruitment process to find out whether people fit the self-organized way of working or not”.
Secure Holacracy in the organization
To secure the ongoing process of the Holacracy implementation in an expanding organization, Energized.org trained 8 internal coaches that are now coaching the people within the organization and especially the new people.
Those coaches are part of the Self-organization and Change circle. That’s the circle where lots of Holacracy-related tensions rise. Like how to deal with the 3 flavors of Holacracy, traditional management hierarchy, and the mix? Another big part of this circle’s job is to make sure that recruitment is aligned with the needs of the organization.
Recruitment and Onboarding
The onboarding process for new employees is a bit different from traditional onboarding where you usually start with your primary work on the first day. Enreach provides new employees with training in their academy for two months.
Coach and HR-specialist Kim Helmer, “That sometimes feels like a ‘car wash’. In those two months, new employees get a spectacular amount of training, coaching and information. In the academy, the focus is on the individual, the team and the roles. All trainings aim to make the new employee familiar with Holacracy and the self-organized way of working. Besides that, it’s also training on ‘how do you give feedback?’ And ‘why is feedback important in a self-organized way of working?’ And we’re giving them support and personal development.”
Kim continues, “That’s a huge investment and necessary because if you don’t have a manager, how do you ensure that you keep growing and that you understand? How do you ensure that you understand the business needs on one hand and your personal development needs on the other hand? And where do they cross, where do they damage with each other? So all different types of onboarding are done in the first two to three months to ensure that new employees land in the organization and really feel what is needed and what we expect from them. This is a nice example of the impact on HR issues within self-organizing companies that scale-up fast.”
Aligning personal purpose and the purpose of the organization
Anita Klaver is an HR professional and joined Voiceworks when they decided to start with Holacracy. She shares, “What Enreach wants to create with Holacracy is a purpose-driven organization. Both the company and the individuals working there are on a journey to success however that is defined. To be successful you have to find out what the organization has to offer to the individuals’ success and the other way around. This balance is the basis of the HR practice and choice of instruments like fostering sharing feedback for example by hosting an event two times a year.”
I think it’s impossible to create a role-based organization where the purpose is important and then not talk about your HR processes. We realize very well that we’re in the change phase, and that we are not there. Absolutely not. We’re learning. – Anita Klaver
Take aways Holacracy at Enreach
- is a means to an end
- is about purpose, process, and behaviour
- impacts all HR processes
- longer change management effort