Octopus Energy | Backlash as CEO says he 'has no HR department'

Backlash as CEO says he 'has no HR department'

The Founder and CEO of a billion-pound firm has recently hit headlines after stating that his company ‘has no HR department’.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Greg Jackson, who heads up the UK start-up Octopus Energy, said he has no interest in traditional things such as HR or IT departments.

Additionally, Jackson said that there is a tendency for large employers to “infantilise” their staff members and “drown creative people in process and bureaucracy”.

The company boss said that, in his experience, HR and IT departments don’t boost staff happiness or productivity – which is why he said he doesn’t have them.

Jackson has previously run several organisations. He said that running smaller companies of circa five staff he would learn to cover IT and HR-related problems himself.

Who do staff turn to?

For many professionals, they would likely be left wondering who would deal with workplace issues that the HR function would traditionally oversee – such as contract disputes or cases of bullying that require certain knowledge.

According to the BBC, Jackson said he expects managers to take personal responsibility for these after having appropriate training – which is something that he used to do when overseeing teams.

He said he feels that this approach allows organisations to scale more quickly while also making employees more self-reliant.

Social media weighs in

Since this story was published, many people have flocked to social media to share their thoughts regarding this story.

Twitter user @ariadneassoc dubbed this story “odd” given that a quick LinkedIn search draws up several people working for the firm that would appear to be within HR.

@LukeKyte101 also took to the social media platform writing: “If you check LinkedIn, there are plenty of people working there with HR in the title.”

Elsewhere, this was also echoed by Twitter user @WorldofGoodBook, who wrote: “I think it’s actually stupidly irresponsible to say this out loud. Clearly they do have HR functions and people - probably just without the name or experience."

On the other hand, some said that they liked the concept of managers having greater responsibilities with the team.

When searching on LinkedIn, HR Grapevine found several people working for the business holding roles including Head of Talent Acquisition and HR Business Partner.

In response to one tweet, Jackson responded writing: “We have one person with an HR title who arrived at us via an acquisition. We have two or three recruiters. Chief of staff is a strategy role helping with financial planning, M&A etc. There’s no HR dept, no HR director, no HR function.”

‘Octopus is unusual’

Following this BBC interview, Jackson told HR Grapevine that “Octopus is unusual”.

He said: “We scaled the business by repeatedly cloning micro businesses, and what works for us won’t work for other businesses.

“HR in all companies will be looking for how they can improve value to businesses, and there are always conversations to be had about alternative models from which we can all learn.

“I learned a big chunk of what I know from a brilliant HR Director, Dennis Shuler at Procter & Gamble, who was a massive advocate of decentralisation and people centred management.

“Octopus's approach is certainly not for everyone," he added.

The UK start-up has more than 1,200 employees and is valued at more than £1.4billion.

Image credit: Octopus Energy

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Comments (4)

  • Izzy
    Fri, 26 Feb 2021 10:54am GMT
    Good luck with that mate.
  • Iain
    Wed, 24 Feb 2021 2:39pm GMT
    Out of interest have you fact checked this against LinkedIn? There seem to be quite a few HR people working there?
  • julie
    Wed, 24 Feb 2021 2:18pm GMT
    Well yeah good luck with that one. I work in a related field to HR and wouldn't ever dream of being able to know what they know and need to know. So, I see problems ahead at some point

    My field is highly creative/innovative and no HR do not make me less creative ... what a notion !!
  • Chloe
    Wed, 24 Feb 2021 1:33pm GMT
    The poor HRBP who arrived there 'because of an acquisition', I'm sure he feels valued following these comments.


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