Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

The role of works council

We are facing the question of how to deal with works council in Holacracy, which is a very relevant question in Germany and Austria - I would assume in Italy and France as well. Ultimately it is clear that there is no real need to have a works council in Orgs operating in Holacracy. However, what we see is that there is a broader union context that is pretty influential and it is hard for a works council to "redefine" its role (which is basically a complete shift of identity) without coming under pressure by its peers.

I am curious if anyone of you has encountered similar challenges and if you saw creative solutions how to deal with it in a first step...

- Gerald

7 Replies
Karilen Mays

Gerald, I am so glad you are bringing this up. With limited hands on work in Europe I don't have much experience to draw on here.

However, my generic thought is that we need an "app" that could even map the existing regulations and structures into an organization via roles and policies. This could be the first step rather -- to write it down and translate.

Even unions are pretty new territory for us. So far my sense is that similar to laws, we can simply create governance that aligns to broader external requirements or needs, and the organization processes can only evolve as much as those regulations or laws would allow, but at least we would have the clarity in Governance about what those boundaries are. 

From mapping the existing structures, perhaps the relationship and role of the works council could have a chance to incrementally evolve. I hope you will continue the conversation here...let us know what you do.


Diederick Janse

We have something similar in Holland, though there's precedent here for being exempted from the applicable law in certain cases. The precedent applies to organizations running with sociocracy, but I'd be confident it would apply as much or more to organizations running with Holacracy. The point being that Holacracy builds in something that you could almost call a 'distributed work(er)s council', although in reality it actually challenges the assumptions underlying those ideas in the first place (worker representations, power hierarchies, etc.). I look forward to seeing the first Holacracy-run company go up for the exemption, which is likely to happen soon!

Andrea Faré

Hi Gerald, Italy here.

I confirm that it will be a concern for us as well, as we have several forms of representation of  workers unions inside companies, and our labour laws are pretty complex

To my knowledge those who have applied Holacracy in Italy so far have not yet impacted any of the bylaws of the national contracts, I have heard that the unions are interested in the topic (at least at the local level, Holacracy being still unknown to the masses), we have work to do in this direction. 

There's room for work in the realm of what we  call "the second level of negotiation" (which sees the local union representatives and the company as the main actors in customizing the national contract to specific needs)





Juliane Martina Röll

Gerald, you have me curious with 

"Ultimately it is clear that there is no real need to have a works council in Orgs operating in Holacracy."

What makes you say that? Where do you take that clarity from? (I think I can see how that might be true, but I could just as easily argue the opposite at the moment, I think.)

I have worked with a large union in the past, and resonate with what Karilen says: I'd aim at including it fully, mapping it out as it is, and then letting it evolve through tensions. This might actually be attractive to unionists, as they might see it as a way to gain _more_ influence in the organisation! (Which _then_ even I could see as a good thing!)

Stephan Jenner

In Australia we have union representation via shop stewards in which case they are purely roles within the organisation. Other ways of dealing with it here is to use context reps that represent the external context within the appropriate circle within the organisation. 

Also for specific legal requirements it is purely done via policy relating to membership 

hope that helps

Vincent de Lau

Is there in the meantime any more experience with this topic? I'm specifically looking for the Dutch situation ('ondernemingsraad'), but similar experiences would also be welcome.

Diederick Janse

No updates in the Dutch context, that I'm aware of.

This (Dutch) page details the previous exemptions from Dutch worker representation law that have been made, based on sociocracy: https://www.ser.nl/nl/taken/or...heffingorplicht.aspx

Again, I'm confident we could make a strong case why Holacracy ticks those same boxes at least as good or better. All we're waiting for is the first organization who is willing to invest some time and energy to prove this point and work with the SER.

Alternatively, you could do what others have outlined above and just map the current reality of a work(er) representation council ("Ondernemingsraad") with the language of Holacracy, i.e. using circles, roles, and policies.

My colleagues and I would be happy to help do either of those two things!