How Facebook Manages Its Workforce - InformationWeek

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11/16/2011
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How Facebook Manages Its Workforce

Facebook is growing so fast it had to implement new forms of employee reviews in a "learn or lose" work environment, execs tell Enterprise 2.0 conference.

Facebook has periodically wrestled with figuring out the right way to handle employee reviews, and at one point tried to dispense with the whole process, Graham said. Employees missed having some process in place, however, because they wanted to be recognized, and fairly compensated, for their achievements.

In general, Facebook did not start out with a lot of formal processes, Graham said. "When we implemented a process, there had to be a good reason. The places we add process is where it lets us collaborate faster, or where there are people doing duplicate work. Our belief is process should make you faster as a company. Where companies get to feeling a little bit big is where they put in process for the sake of process and not actually to solve a problem."

Building social qualities into work processes makes them more efficient because of "the natural interactions that happen if you know and like the people you work with," Graham said. "It actually makes you faster. There's a speed that comes from relationships." For example, even if she hasn't seen a coworker in months, they keep tabs on each other online, which means they have less catching up to do the next time they need to work together.

Ultimately, Facebook decided it needed two processes for recognition and reviews, not one. Rather than giving employee feedback and recognition as part of a six-month review cycle, feedback and recognition needed to become a continual process. The employee's record of accumulated recognition could then feed into the formal review. "Employees want to know how they're doing and how it can be better," Graham said.

Some of this plays into stereotypes about the millennial generation, such as the idea that they are needy, selfish, and impatient--always looking for another gold star on their report cards. As perhaps the first great company to be built by millennials, Facebook tends to instead see positive qualities: employees seeking constant growth, continuous learning, work they can be passionate about, and new challenges.

While its user base has broadened, "the truth is, we started as a site for college kids," Graham said. "Our CEO is a millennial, and Facebook was built as a site for millennials." When other people tell her "The Four-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss is the bible of her generation, she thinks of how many employees cheerfully compete in all-night hackathons.

"Our idea of fun as a company is people staying up all night working," Graham said. The millennials at her company aren't looking to work less, "they're looking for work that has meaning," she said. "Yes, work-life balance is really important for longevity, but I don't find we're a company of people who are looking to leave."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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