Basecamp, Hr, Jason Fried, Basecamp Memo, Subtractive Changes, Employee Engagement, Leidy Klotz

Basecamp, Hr

Is Less More Than More At Work? Basecamp Is Betting On The Power Of Subtractive Changes

Is Less More Than More At Work? Basecamp Is Betting On The Power Of Subtractive Changes

4/30/2021 12:22:00 PM

Is Less More Than More At Work? Basecamp Is Betting On The Power Of Subtractive Changes

In taking things off the table, Basecamp approached employee engagement in a novel way. But have the changes gone too far? And what ripple effects will these changes have on employee engagement ?

Subtractive change #2: No more paternalistic benefitsBasecamp's idea of paternalistic benefits is those that people can use for their wellness or continuing education goals. Eliminating them is an interesting choice. Employers have a tremendous ability to positively impact their employees' lives — especially through ethically nudging healthier behaviors. While maintaining an equivalent cash benefit for employees to use is a nice gesture, we know that humans tend to put immediate gratification over the actions that benefit them in the long term. It's more likely the infusion of cash will go toward"want to have" items versus gyms or tuition — potentially leaving employees less well-off in the future.

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But what does this mean for broader wellbeing efforts at Basecamp? Is wellbeing off the table? Has it been removed from the human resources roadmap? Employees are likely asking these same questions — and wondering what type of mental health and wellbeing support they can expect if they need it in the future.

Subtractive change #3: No more committeesPart of the power of committees is the diversity of thought when the committee is also diverse. Important nuances can be lost when those voices are lost. Basecamp's memo explained that the efficiency gained from putting decision-making power back into one set of designated hands was worth it to them, and they trust the people they hired to do specific jobs to simply get on with things.

One of the jobs specifically called out in the memo was that the responsibility for diversity, equity, and inclusion would return to Andrea LaRowe, head of people ops at Basecamp. One of the largest myths about diversity and inclusion work is that it is a job for one person to fix. Or that the role should be centrally positioned within human resources. The best cultural transformations aligned to purpose and improving business performance are rarely driven out of human resources. Providing and maintaining an inclusive culture is everyone's job — and shouldn't sit squarely on the shoulders of one person.

Subtractive change #4: No more lingering or dwelling on past decisionsThis is a subtractive change to get behind. While there is a power in a post-mortem to extract all lessons learned from past projects and decisions, the memo was right to call out that sometimes we can take too long to make a decision or spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. That said, Basecamp would do well to unpack how and why decision-making fell off the rails in the first place.

From the memo:"We've become a bit too precious with decision making over the last few years. Either by wallowing in indecisiveness, worrying ourselves into overthinking things, taking on a defensive posture and assuming the worst outcome is the likely outcome, putting too much energy into something that only needed a quick fix, inadvertently derailing projects when casual suggestions are taken as essential imperatives, or rehashing decisions in different forums or mediums. It's time to get back to making calls, explaining why once, and moving on."

Subtractive change #5: No more 360 reviews360 reviews can be an inefficient and ineffective feedback mechanism. But that does beg the question as to how Basecamp will formally document performance going forward. That documentation often determines who gets raises and — on the flip side — firing will be a whole lot harder without said documentation.

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Subtractive change #6: No forgetting what we do hereOn its own, that subtractive change statement could form the base of a strong set of company values. There is an elegance to it. Purpose is why a company exists. And Basecamp was clear in the memo that they are here to"make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company."

People join companies because of the company's values and what they stand for. Will this frank statement of Basecamp's purpose be enough for existing and future talent?The power of subtractionWhen we look to improve or change things, we often overlook the power of subtraction. In taking things off the table, Basecamp approached employee engagement in a novel way. But will it work? Time — and retention rates — will bear out if Basecamp's approach will be a benefit or a detriment to employee morale. In a

short follow-upto the original memo, Fried reflects on this."When the complications around the concern have cleared, how will it feel? That's how I find peace in making decisions today. The outcome comes along, it's rarely here now. Time will tell, as it always does."

I use behavioral science to figure out why we do what we do — especially when it comes to poor health decisions. With over a decade of employee engagement consulting… Read MoreI use behavioral science to figure out why we do what we do — especially when it comes to poor health decisions. With over a decade of employee engagement consulting experience with Fortune 500 companies and an MSc in Behavioral Science from The London School of Economics, I use that experience to help bridge the gap between theory and action to maximize performance. My thoughts on employee engagement have appeared in many HR publications, such as Workforce, HRDirector, and CorpComms Magazine. I’m currently the lead behavioral scientist at U.K. consultancy scarlettabbott. My debut book “Even Better If: Building Better Businesses, Better Leaders and Better Selves” will be out in 2021.

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