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Staff at this company get to choose their CEO annually

One global company puts this decision into the hands of its employees on an annual basis

In most companies, the CEO position is chosen by members of the board or the recruitment is outsourced; however, this democratic approach could bring about benefits for other organisations. It also gives employees more of a say in how the business is operated.

The global management and HR business Haufe changed the way in which its CEO is selected four years ago and its employees now vote for who should take over the position each year. This democratic system began when Hermann Arnold stepped down as chairman of the business and there is now a vote to elect a number of positions, including worldwide and US CEOs, CTO and chair.

Voting process

The employees at Haufe elect a person to these positions in January each year, which enables them to influence the future direction of the company. All candidates wishing to put themselves forward for election need to do so three months before the vote tales place.

The process of voting is anonymous and employees have a number of choices when it comes to choosing a candidate, which include ‘yes, tentatively’, ‘yes, positively’ and ‘yes, definitely’. There is also the option of ‘no, look for alternative candidate externally’.

The current global CEO is Marc Stoffel and the US CEO position is filled by Kelly Max, both of whom believe in the democratic process and want it to continue. Once the votes have been counted, the candidates who lose can take on a less senior role within the business or choose to leave.

Innovative management styles

This is not a new management approach and there are other major companies that have similar practices in place. These include Deloitte, where staff vote for their CEO; the Guardian, where staff voted for their new editor-in-chief; and Whole Foods, where new employees face a vote on whether they stay after 90 days in the role.

Other organisations have adopted different management approaches across their business to allow employees to have a greater interest in the future success of the company; for example, the CEO of the New York-based tech startup SumAll implemented a scheme whereby employees vote on individual team leaders each quarter. This has benefited the business, as managers have more empathy and respect after previously being in the role and there are fewer issues with bureaucracy and politics.

As more businesses look to differentiate themselves and attract the best employees, innovative approaches to management could prove to be more successful than lavish perks and rewards such as leisure facilities or gym memberships.

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