Who’s your HR director? Can you put me through to the HR team? Does your team sit within the HR shared service centre? These are just a few of the questions I’ve heard whilst working in the pay and reward profession.
My reply is usually ‘we don’t do HR at Lush’ and this is often met with silence or a strange look. I go on to explain that we don’t do HR in the traditional sense. We don’t have a dedicated HR team, but if you were to put a number of our teams together - payroll, reward, people experience, talent, etc - they would probably look a bit like a HR department.
The reason for not having a dedicated HR team is because Lush tries to empower its local managers to resolve problems at their level. By giving them the space and autonomy to ‘make mistakes and start again’, they learn more by getting stuck in and working through the issues themselves. This is a core belief of our founder who lost everything and started again to build Lush in the mid-nighties.
Our people experience (PX) team might be the closest team you’d find to HR, but they are not going to do the job for you and it’s probably the main reason we don’t have HR.
By having a traditional HR team, line managers often outsource any problems to them and once it is out of sight, it is out of mind. This is not healthy for the line managers who are initially dealing with the problems, nor is it healthy for the HR team that is left to pick up problem after problem - that’s not an engaging place to work.
Our PX team are there to support and guide line managers, where needed, on a wide range of topics. We act in a very self-led environment - the information is there if you look for it and if you can’t find it, someone can point you in the right direction.
In terms of business structure, HR isn’t unique in that way. Our teams are often fairly small and there is no ivory tower where we all sit. Our head office isn’t one large block, there are a number of offices spread across the quay front in Poole, Dorset, where people can walk between offices and cross-pollinate with ideas. Our founder has often referred to it is ‘a bit like a beehive, with people buzzing around’.
As well as this, we don’t have regional managers. Hierarchy is very flat at Lush and in some cases, there are no managers at all.
The people circle
Some of our teams work on sociocratic principles, where the power of a people circle can work to come to an informed decision that is best for them and the business, without a manager telling them what to do. The results are the same and people are happier for being a part of the decision.
Two board members are also part of the circle, to help focus on the solutions needed to resolve problems or tensions with the business. Tensions normally arise through a lack of fairness or failure in transparency and it is in the best interest of the whole company to work and solve this.
By having members of the board in this circle, tensions and solutions can flow back to the board for awareness.
As for board meetings, they are not always restricted to the board. Whilst there are key members, others may come into the meeting if there is value to add or a project that has been worked on that needs board approval.
It would be pretty tricky to fall in line with traditional HR in a corporate company after experiencing the benefits of no HR here at Lush.