Voted one of the best companies to work for in The Sunday Times WL Gore & Associates has no hierarchy in terms of staff, managers or office furniture and the treatment of all workers.
Senior lecturer, Chris Moore who deals with academic staff and HR management at Strathclyde University, said:
“It is certainly not a typical business structure. It’s all very well fostering a unique work culture – but the question is: does the system actually improve the company’s performance?”
Chris argues that it is difficult for a company to avoid the conventional hierarchy, pecking order which is now an established business practice for centuries of firms. Gore claims to have achieved a much healthier bottom line, however, it may not suit some managers’ to work this way. Moore says it could even be a greater challenge for employees who are working within the new regime especially if they are not used to it, as working on a level playing field environment will not suit everyone. Most people are used to sitting at their office desks in their own department with colleagues who do a similar role with a manager leading the way on their day.
Staff is employed in specific “work areas” rather than in defined roles and as such everyone receives the same treatment in terms of their office equipment, office furniture and how they are treated by management. Gore actually encourages “self-motivation” so individuals are required to take a greater interest in a variety of job functions and projects.
Decisions are made by different sizes of teams and sometimes they are even down to an individual – based on what needs to be done, rather than a boss that no one sees who hides in his office at his office chair passing his decisions downwards to his staff regardless of their opinions.
The Sunday Times viewed one knock on effect of this type of management in its dealings of trying to set up interviews and arrange photographic shoots following The Sunday Times Poll. Getting a minute of a Gore employees’ time proved tricky.
One of Gore’s key staff, John Kennedy, initially said he was far too busy to stand still out of his office chair for The Sunday Times photographer to take pictures and taking a flurry of phone calls at his office desk surrounded by staff whose seniority was impossible to ascertain, before their situation was resolved.
There is nobody at Gore who is charged with promoting the firm and its unusual culture which would explain why it has received little attention in the press.
Mr Moore further stated that from a health and safety angle, it can be dangerous for people to carry out tasks that they are not actually trained to do. It is the role of the ‘leaders’ to help individual employees make decisions and to gauge if they have enough knowledge to tackle a different aspect of their duties. Leaders are appointed, but normally Gore claims that they naturally evolve through demonstrating special knowledge and experience.