Q: How can I promote new ideas within the workplace while also supporting my employees’ personal development?

A: Seventh Generation, a Vermont-based company, is committed to becoming the world’s most trusted brand of authentic, safe, and environmentally-responsible products for a healthy home.

In the past year, Seventh Generation has replaced their traditional performance management system, which was based on management-driven goal-setting, with a completely new Personal Development process, the key part of which they’re calling Promises Beyond Ableness (or PBAs).

The Promises Beyond Ableness process invites employees to identify what THEY would most like to contribute to in support of the company’s strategy – rather than the company TELLING them what they will contribute. Their PBA plan is not limited to their identified function either, but can be expansive in scope. Employees are then invited to develop these ideas into a plan of action.

The Promises Beyond Ableness process is one part of a larger commitment to helping employees think about the big picture and the company’s place in it. Each month, all employees at Seventh Generation pick a day to attend one of two Development Days with their functional teams. Teams work together and strategize about how to improve their key work. Employees also spend some time working in cross-functional teams to increase awareness of synchronicities and other functions across the organization, and to generally gain a larger systems perspective of Seventh Generation and its role in the world.

Seventh Generation allows its employees to take paid sabbatical leaves to pursue interests of their choosing that also enhance Seventh Generation’s ability to inspire positive change in the world. The interested employee appoints a cross-functional employee committee, which reviews the sabbatical application, including leave plans and business continuity plans, and decides whether or not to endorse the sabbatical. It is not a management determination.

Seventh Generation Founder Jeffrey Hollender explains, “As I’ve long maintained, ‘you can’t grow a business without growing people.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that our investment in people and their capacity to contribute to our success is working. Over the course of time, we’ve created a huge amount of new capability, capability that’s reflected in sales growth, but more importantly, in the personal growth of individuals with the capacity to lead us into the new frontier of values-led business.”

Traci Fenton


Traci Fenton

Traci Fenton is the Founder + CEO of WorldBlu, which champions the growth of democratic organizations worldwide. As a leading expert in organizational democracy, she is recognized as one of