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The Future of HR: 4 Unusual HR Strategies from Innovative Companies

A good HR strategy is essential for any business to run smoothly.

Whether a policy is good or bad, it can have a massive impact on employee satisfaction and welfare, which in turn can have an impact on productivity and the bottom line.

On a quest for innovation, some companies have recently started to take unusual approaches to their HR strategies. We’ve had a scout around and have discovered some unusual HR strategies from innovative companies that push the boundaries of conventional HR. 

Checking Over Papers

#1 Netflix’s unusual workplace culture

Netflix has made a real splash with its unconventional approach to HR.

The entertainment giant puts an emphasis on having ‘real’ values that they actually adhere to. They believe that many companies simply write up a list of values that sound good, but are ultimately ignored in the day-to-day running of the business.

Netflix’s adherence to their values is continuous as they encourage staff to constantly assess themselves, the work they produce and those around them to ensure they are being upheld.

One of their most discussed policies is their approach to employee leave and expenditure. This is part of their commitment to giving their employees freedom and responsibility.

Rather than allocate a set amount of annual leave, employees are simply instructed to take holidays as and when they wish as long as it doesn’t cause harm to the business.

Similarly, there’s no set amount of time allocated for parental leave with parents free to return to work whenever they feel they and their new baby are ready.

This freedom also applies to company spending and expenses such as travel. Rather than set spending limits, the responsibility is put into the hands of the employee and they are trusted to use their best judgement on how much is appropriate to spend.

Ultimately, their HR motto is that they put people first over procedures and processes which shouldn’t really be revolutionary, but is something that some companies often lose sight of.

Team Discussion

#2 Amazon’s ‘The Offer’

Have you ever had a job that you truly loathed but felt you were unable to take the financial hit of just walking out? Are you nodding your head? Us too.

Imagine that you were given the option to simply walk away and get paid a lump sum in return. It sounds far too good to be true, but it is exactly what Amazon offers its US employees.

The idea originated from Zappos, an online shoe retailer which Amazon acquired in 2009, who offered new employees the option to quit and receive a pay out in their first few weeks.  It has now evolved and become part of Amazon’s ongoing HR strategy.

Once a year, employees with one or more years’ service are asked if they would like to leave in exchange for a pay-out based on how long they have worked for the company.

There is one condition set for those who take up the offer – once you leave, you can never come back, so employees need to think very carefully about what it is they really want.

Amazon sees this as a mutually beneficial arrangement as they feel that employees who don’t really want to be there aren’t as committed as those who choose to stay on. They feel that this policy is worth the short term financial cost, as in the long run, it ensures their remaining workforce is engaged and productive.

Meeting In Booth

#3 Intuit’s Employee Recognition strategy

Spotlight, the employee recognition program from software company Inuit, has been highly praised since its introduction.

The program aims to shine a spotlight on employees who have shown dedication, innovation and high performance.

Employees are given feedback on how they are excelling and can then select a variety of rewards including gift cards and charitable donations made in their name.

The program is now deeply embedded into Intuit’s culture with 90-95% of eligible employees receiving one or more awards in the program’s first two years.  Part of this can be attributed to how simple and easy the program is for managers to use, but is largely due to the performance-driven attitude it has fostered amongst employees.

This has been proven in a study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which found that 93% of employees felt that receiving Spotlight awards helped to motivate them to maintain a high level of performance.

The study also found that 99% of employees felt that they clearly understood the reasons why they had been given an award.

Clearly, Intuit has tapped into an effective way of delivering feedback and praise which has had a very positive effect on both the company’s culture and its bottom line.

Team Fist Bump

#4 Google’s rigorous hiring strategy

Really want to work at Google? Fab, so do the 2 million other people who apply every year.

With so many applicants and an industry that is constantly evolving, the focus must be on finding the right candidate who will be able to adapt and keep up with new developments.

Google aims to combat these challenges with a unique and rigorous hiring process.

It may surprise you to learn that applications are initially screened by real human recruiters as opposed to a fancy sifting software. 

If you’re selected to progress after this initial screening process, you will be contacted for a formal telephone interview. Next there is an on-site interview with a panel of 4 Google employees.

Google had previously been notorious for asking oddball questions such as ‘How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?’; however, they have now (thankfully) realised that the ability to answer these sheds no light on if you can do the job!

This might sound like a pretty standard recruitment policy so far, but it's the next stage that sets Google apart.

After the interview, your complete file (including interview feedback) is passed on to an independent hiring committee. These are made up of Google employees from all levels who are tasked with deciding if you will be a good fit.

If they give you the thumbs up, then it’s on to a senior leader for approval, and finally, an executive will review and approve your employment offer.

Sounds exhausting, but Google believes that this process is the ultimate way to weed out unsuitable hires.

There’s no such thing as being given a chance to prove yourself on the job at Google; in their view, they already know everything they need to know about you from your final candidate file.


So there you have it - our pick of the more unconventional HR strategies from innovative companies that are in action right now.

Will policies like these catch on and become the norm? With start-up culture increasingly influencing big business, it seems likely that we'll see more innovation in HR.

Whatever happens, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.


Interested in the future of HR? Check out our other articles in this series: 

  1. Which Digital HR and L&D Skills Should Organisations Be Investing In? 
  2. 3 Ways Company Culture is Changing 
  3. 7 Key HR Trends You Should Know About in 2020


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