Meet the man who never fires anyone

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Firing an employee is usually the last resort for any HR professional but one CEO says it’s an option he won’t even entertain – instead, he’s promised not to sack anyone once they’ve signed up.

“We, as a company, will never give up on you,” says Spire founder Peter Platzer. “It’s kind of like the US Army rules: no man left behind.”

Of course the US Army can still kick you out for dishonourable conduct and Platzer acknowledges that extreme circumstances could force his hand in the future.

Saying that, he’s stuck to his word so far – the three-year-old San Francisco start-up currently has 45 employees on its payroll and no terminations to date. Just three employees have left of their own accord during the time.

So how does Vienna born Platzer keep his promise? – By implementing an incredibly selective recruitment policy, apparently.

 Super selective

“It is literally easier to get into Harvard than it is to get into Spire,” Platzer said, explaining that his company has hired 10 out of 1,323 applicants over two and a half months.

The company’s hiring policy may be selective but it’s certainly not drawn out – the entire process only takes about two weeks and concentrates primarily on people who would do well in Spire’s culture.

Company culture

Physicist Platzer says the company’s culture is defined by workers who “pursue relentless growth” – he’s nurtured this by building the organization around employee career development and setting up a system that perpetually keeps workers happy by helping them reach their professional goals.

But how does it work in practice? New recruits take a 200-plus question career test to identify activities they enjoy the most and establish their long term objectives. Then, Spire structures jobs to fit employees, rather than finding employees to fit certain roles.

Risky wager

Investing in employees after you’ve only known them a few weeks, and publically promising not to fire them, could easily backfire – so is it too dangerous a move for most HR managers?

John Boudreau, a professor at the University of California’s Marshall School of Business, says companies – especially in the tech sector – could be putting themselves at risk if they make a similar commitment.

“The world moves much faster and [more] unpredictably now than it has before, and in ways that can significantly affect employment,” says Boudreaueven organizations with the most meticulous recruitment process could find themselves stuck with employees whose knowledge and expertise is irrelevant or outdated.

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  • Pomponia Martinez on 2015-04-16 1:42:01 PM

    Hiring the right person for both the organization and jobs is absolutely the best thing to do! Kudos to Spire for creating a culture that actually cares about employment security. Yes, unforeseen circumstances may require you to change, but a commitment to your employees to look out for their interests is what we need to see more of in business!

  • Tina on 2015-04-20 7:53:18 AM

    Terminations are never a good thing because it dimotivates the wor culture and its employees even when necessary.
    Spire should be praised for doing what no one else will promise as Pomponia said. No terminations for any organization is an ideal. With just this strategy he has humanized his workforce and created a culture that speaks volumes to many. By being more selective in the hiring process it prevents future mismatch.
    I found it interesting that he creates positions based on the employees abilities and does not just fill a vacancy.
    But the only risk I see with this strategy comes from employee perception. If people know they will not be termminated, does this not cause employees to take their job for granted because they know they have nothing to fear?
    Also, it is a fairly new company does he really believe he can keep this promis/expectation in the future.

  • Gelsey Guan on 2015-04-20 3:20:58 PM

    I believe this is not about employment security, it's about holding your team accountable for success. Once you join us, it's a winning team, and we will not let you fail. The company is doing it's best to drive the employee to success. But how do you make sure the employee will play his/her own part? Well, through career test, development plan, and "customized" jobs, the company is aligning the kind of success the company needs and the kind of success the employee wants. They are in the same boat.

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