This month the New York office of VaynerMedia parted with an unspecified number of employees across departments. The interesting part about this development is not the fact that it happened so much as the way in which it happened.
A few weeks ago, the company’s chief heart officer Claude Silver sent an email to team leaders throughout the office (which currently employs more than 700) asking them to identify individual staffers who were “weakest” and “strongest” in their respective groups. According to our source, Silver assured everyone who received the email that it was not a “witch hunt.” The following week did, however, see terminations.
These changes did not seem to involve formal performance reviews or self-evaluations. When we spoke to Gary Vaynerchuk himself today, he said they did not stem from any particular change in the agency’s business.
Vaynerchuk assured us that this most recent round of staffing changes wasn’t about downsizing and that his agency is hiring thanks, in large part, to the Chase social media AOR win that we reported back in May. He estimated that the organization will bring on approximately 70 new staffers between now and January.
He also told us that this is a somewhat standard practice at VaynerMedia, framing it as a data gathering operation with the ultimate goal of figuring out a better way to make HR decisions. The reason it got attention this time and led someone to send us a related tip, he said, was probably the fact that the email went out to more individuals than usual.
“I take all of it with a grain of salt; I am fascinated by the data itself,” he said. “It’s another test for me in trying to collect data around performance. I spend 90% of my time on people who are strong.”
Vaynerchuk also applies this sort of approach to the promotional process.
He told us that VaynerMedia went through a round of promotions in August and that many of the individuals who moved up in the organization skipped a step in the traditional route. This means that some theoretically went from account executive to a more advanced position without first becoming senior account executives.
These decisions were based, at least in part, on practices similar to the one described above, which he called “Data collection at scale.” Vaynerchuk said he understands why some people might be frightened by this approach given the fact that most of them previously worked at holding company-owned agencies where employees constantly worry about how much longer they might keep their jobs.
“When your intent is in a great place, you don’t worry about tactics,” he said. We do feel like some of our readers may have related opinions to share.[Image via VaynerMedia]