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A Fresh Approach to Employment Contracts

A Fresh Approach to Employment Contracts

Earlier today, HR expert Thomas Otter pointed me to an example of a fresh approach to employment contracts. It’s the illustration you see at the top of this story. In the spirit of recent Twitter memes about music in stories, my immediate thought was of these lines:

Now see what youve gone and done.
Now see what youve gone and done.

Well now you never did see such a terrible thing…

Those come from the song Domino by Genesis. I can see HR professionals having palpitations at best and heart failure at worst. That’s after the lawyers. But seriously.

In his commentary, Otter describes his reaction as ‘thrilled,’ because:

Getting the contract assembled and signed has always been the weak link in the onboarding process. It is when the slick recruiting process meets the legal 10 point font.

…and offering his impressions of this effort as:

  1.  Profound simplicity and attention to detail
  2. It amplifies the company brand. Check out their website and marketing. This aligns perfectly.
  3. It shows that almost anything can be improved through thoughtful design
  4. It will make Tony‘s a very popular chocolate with HR departments.
  5. if you can do this to the employment contract, you can do it to pretty much any process.

He has a point. But what’s equally impressive are the number of reactions on LinkedIn. As might be expected, there is plenty of support for this approach but equally, some aspects would likely fall foul of a variety of laws in different countries. Does that make this style of contract untenable? Absolutely not. It just means some will require tweaking. Even so, while playful, the fundamentally different approach taken by Tony‘s Chocolonely should be taken seriously.

The question of trust (there’s another song title/lyrics right there 😉 ) that the company spells out is central to this approach. The company says that:

We laid down the most important things and for the rest, we rely on mutual trust and common sense. And okay, there is a 2nd page with our values and promises we make to the new Tony.

This stands in sharp contrast to reports of covert employee surveillance in the locked down economy where some employers think that a true measure of productivity is time spent in front of a screen. Smart employers know that time is not a measure of achievement. The pace at which people work is infinitely variable, something that Taylor masterfully massaged when ‘inventing’ the ‘science’ of time and motion that has dominated measurement in the industrial age.

But what this approach also demonstrates – at least to me – is a willingness to think differently about what the employer/employee relationship should look like and how it is expected to work. You can’t get a sense fo that from modern legalese which, of necessity, is all about protection.

Finally, if I was a prospective employee, how attractive would I find this? As someone the wrong side of the UK national retirement age I might have difficulty, but as a person coming into the workforce looking to find a career path at an uncertain time? I’d likely jump at the chance. After all, how many employment contracts make you smile?

The only remaining question is how this approach might impact the whole hiring process…over to you for comments.

PS – did anyone else notice it is called ‘agreement’ and not ‘contract?’



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