Setting up shared governance at FlexJob

Written by Sarah Spitz, on 25 June 2019

At the beginning of 2016, FlexJob was founded by Jérémie Bataille, who aimed to build an organization where performance is driven by autonomy, accountability, and collaboration among team members. On a daily basis, FlexJob facilitates the emergence of new managerial practices through two activities. On one side, the "LAB" focuses on supporting businesses, and on the other side, there's a recruitment agency to enable candidates to work in companies that have adopted new ways of working and organizing. Three years after its creation, the company has more than a dozen employees. This growth led to new questions and challenged the clarification of the implicit aspects, particularly regarding governance. Managing a company is not the same when there are 4 employees compared to more than 10.

Shared governance is a system that allows everyone to be an actor in the strategic and operational management of the organization. This involves defining a decision-making method that is adapted to the various levels of challenges encountered on a daily basis. For FlexJob, this approach has also brought serenity to the collective by standardizing and clarifying the implicit aspects of their operation. Another crucial point: implementing shared governance allows them to test innovative and collaborative ways of doing things internally.

The culture of self-governed companies assumes that individuals have the skills and processes needed to handle their disagreements with maturity and grace. - Claire

A cross-functional project team was formed at the business level to work on the subject and propose a decision-making system for shared governance. After a period of experimentation, here are the results!

Individual Decisions

They identified several subjects for which an employee makes decisions autonomously and responsibly to best meet their needs. These subjects include:

  • All questions related to the organization of personal time: telecommuting, working hours, travel, etc.
  • Issues that involve a lower budget (less than €50 per year or half a day of work per year)
  • Management of everyday operational activities (customer relations, client workshops, recruitment interviews, etc.)
  • Low-stakes project management (according to everyone's common sense!): building and promoting an offer, client relations, etc.

The only requirement is to communicate as much as possible in advance with people who may be affected by this decision. For example, if Jean, a facilitator, needs to go to Paris to meet clients and conduct a workshop, he manages the logistics of his trip freely, blocks the duration of his trip in his shared calendar, and notifies the team via Slack.

La prise de décision constitue une formation par l’action. Aucune forme d’enseignement ne peut rivaliser avec cette expérience en temps réel - Sophie

Soliciting Opinions

They identified subjects for which the establishment of a solicitation process seems more relevant. These include questions that involve a "medium" budget (between €50 and €300 per year or 2 days of work), anything related to performance management (goals, monitoring, and prioritization), or high-stakes projects (again, according to everyone's common sense). For example, in the recruitment activity, two employees had the idea of ​​implementing a referral system. They presented their ideas to the entire team, evolved the initial proposal, and the system is now functional.

Everyone is free to make decisions, but they must listen to what others have to say and seriously consider their opinion - Clément

FlexJob has also adopted unlimited vacations, which fall within the framework of soliciting opinions: they solicit people affected by their absence and inform others of their vacation period.

The solicitation process works as follows:

  • The person initiating the solicitation chooses the most competent and impacted people to respond to their solicitation (the more important the decision, the more people I solicit)
  • Various methods can be used for solicitation: oral, Slack, email, questionnaire, etc. For any important question, it is recommended to formulate the solicitation in writing and give people time to think and provide their input at their leisure.
  • Communicate my final decision to all impacted individuals as far in advance as possible.

To inform the decisions of team members, the financial status is communicated every three weeks to the collective.

Decision by Delegation and Two-Thirds Majority

These two decision-making systems concern the same types of subjects:

  • Questions related to significant budgets (over €300 per year or more than 2 days)
  • Anything related to the organization's operation, the common framework: collective rules (flexible hours, telecommuting), conducting meetings, etc.
  • Company strategy: investments, growth (internal, external), geographic location, launch of new activities, etc.
  • Compensation and bonuses: individual bonuses, for example, have been eliminated in the recruitment activity. They preferred to implement a system of collective bonuses. These bonuses result from objectives set by those concerned and presented to the collective for validation.
  • Recruitment

In the case of a two-thirds majority, each person expresses their opinion, and a time for discussion is planned. The decision is then made if two-thirds of the votes agree with the decision. A weighting may possibly be constructed to increase the weight of the most qualified people to make the decision.

The decision by delegation occurs when an employee delegates their vote to someone who will carry it on their behalf.

The safety net: objection, Your Honor!

Any employee has the power to veto a decision alone. The objection must be justified with a counter-proposal. The veto must also be communicated to all employees. In this case, the decision-making process then goes up a "level": if it concerns an individual decision, it moves to soliciting opinions; if it is soliciting opinions, it moves to a two-thirds majority.

Consensus is appealing, but in practice, it often degenerates into collective tyranny of ego (...) and dilutes responsibility. - Jean

How is this system experienced from the inside?

Margaux, who has been with FlexJob for over a year, testifies that this system is experienced as a subtle balance between individual needs and the common interest. It is genuinely engaging: shared governance empowers each individual and the collective. This applies to daily as well as strategic decision-making, salary increases, and financial figures. Engaging but challenging because a good self-awareness is necessary. She quickly felt the responsibility it involves before even arriving. She felt valued by the transparency of information. For Margaux, this allows her to fully understand the impact of her actions on the structure. In a year, she has a positive assessment of this experience: she feels free and autonomous.

"You feel like an entrepreneur of your company." - Margaux, with FlexJob for over a year.