HR policies to Kick to the Curb: Ring in 2016 with a Foundation for a Winning Culture

What do your organization's HR policies say about you?

The HR policies your organization creates and enacts speak volumes about how you treat, or intend to treat your employees. As an employee, you ideally want to work in an environment which is respectful and treats you like a responsible adult. Unfortunately, many organizations still have HR policies which are antiquated, insulting and inhibit Happiness at Work.

Where Do Yours Stand?

Often these policies remind me of archaic legislation that remain on the books long after they should have been revised.  I'm sure when they were enacted, there was a rationale, but these old, often bizarre and irrelevant laws make no sense today.

In the state of Georgia it's illegal to walk around with an ice cream cone in your back pocket.    In the state of Michigan (legally) women cannot change their hair style without their husband's permission.   It is against the law to adjust your stockings in public in Dennison, Texas and Bristol, Tennessee.  And only in 2013 did it become “legal” for women to wear pants in Paris (that one had been on the books for 213 years!)

Key point: as hard as it can be to enact laws, it’s even more challenging to remove or at the every least revise them.  Even when they make no sense!

We do the same thing in our organizations. We have antiquated policies in place that actually hold us back from igniting Happiness at Work.  

I have discussed this concept with many clients.  Many companies still have these outdated HR policies on the books because they acknowledge that they don't review their handbooks and manuals as often as they should. But for others, it’s different.  It’s very interesting how “in theory” they all want to remove these antiquated rules.  But when they begin to be discussed, there are all kinds of of rationalizations as to why to keep them.

There’s an easy explanation as to why it’s challenging for these leaders to strip these policies from the books.  It comes down to TRUST.   Many leaders do not trust their employees (and vice versa)   So leaders, I need to ask….

1. If you don't trust the majority of your team to do the right thing, why are they still working for you?  

2. What could you and your leadership team be doing to make your employees want to deceive you?

Your employees are your greatest asset! Don't frustrate them and make them want to leave.  Don’t make it difficult to attract new talent.  Make your organization an extraordinary place to work in 2016 and beyond!

Here are talent-repelling HR policies to take off the books so 2016 can be a fresh start!

When the trust level is high at your organization, the majority of your team knows what is expected of them and how their performance impacts others.  If they tell you they need to work from home, there is a valid reason.  If they call in sick, then assume they are – you don't want them spreading germs in the office anyway.  If they arrive late/leave early, know they will make up the time to get the work complete.

You should be supporting your team to achieve goals and milestones in a timely manner, not clock “hours at work”.  You may have staff that are “timely” - in by 9am and out at 5pm and sit at their desk on social media or chatting with colleagues all day.  How is that efficient?  Yes, you can see them in the office. But what are they accomplishing?   Being on time (a good trait) is NOT a proxy for strong performance. As a leader, it’s important not to confuse the two.  Results matter more than hours worked.

If you're hiring adults and subjecting them to childish attendance policies that get people in trouble for being ten minutes late, you're not going to get or keep strong employees.   Asking for sick leave certificates, travel documentation, validation of jury duty...….just doesn't make sense.

If issues present themselves, discuss them with the person immediately to find a solution, not to penalize or embarrass them.  If they are not mature enough to handle these policies, you may need to reconsider if they should be working for you at all.

I fly, you buy.  Yes.  But traveling on crowded planes for business takes a toll on the body and the mind.  The least leaders can do is let your employees have their frequent flier miles.  

Many companies have investigated keeping frequent flier miles as a cost savings measure and found that A – It was challenging for them to be able to purchase miles tickets for the trips required.  B - That it caused a HUGE uproar from the staff and impacted morale significantly
It’s not worth even thinking this one over.  Spending days or weeks on the road, away from your family, is much more difficult than spending 9-5 in the office.  Yes, your employees knew what they were in for when they took the job, but the frequent flier miles make it a little more tolerable.

3.    RANKING YOUR STAFF  (and we're not talking about “Hot or Not”)
Profiling or stack ranking employees (as a performance management process) at one time was touted as an industry best-practice to cultivate a high-performance workforce. Many Fortune 100 companies use their performance appraisal process as a means to identify high performers and weed out low performers.

The approach essentially uses the performance appraisal process to rank employees relative to each other and stipulates that a certain percentage of employees must fall in each rating category.

However, the many downfalls of this process quickly came to light. If you follow the process “properly” – it doesn't always allow for "real ratings". A certain number of employees will have their ratings altered to create the right "distribution" of scores across the bell curve.

This can also make the whole performance management process suspect in the eyes of employees. When the process is communicated to staff, it tends to create a culture of individual competitiveness that is detrimental to team work and team dynamics. It turns the performance management process into a fight for ratings rather than a tool to cultivate improvement and growth. Employee will tend to focus on the rating number rather than on the feedback they receive.

While it's important for every organization to identify high and low performers, you don't have to use stack ranking to effectively differentiate ratings and drive high-performance.

You can line up books on a shelf according to size. People don't stack up like that. Throwing your employees onto a bell curve in your annual performance review process is not a good way to inspire and engage them.

When you're looking to fill a role, you're looking to bring a human into your organization.  Yes, people have traits, characteristics and skills that can be defined by keywords, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.   Equally important to hiring by skill and experience is culture fit and you're not going to find this through an applicant tracking system (ATS) – a popular tool that automates recruiting by parsing job applications and resume data into a data base searchable by keywords.

Its seems like every month there is a new recruiting/applicant tracking system that has all kinds of bells and whistles “to make the HR team's life easier”.

However, the way that the data is pulled in most systems, many people applying for role X all look exactly the same.  And this is the positive outcome as 75% of applicants don't get through at all due to tech errors and mis-identification of data points.

Point being, there is no way to differentiate between a stellar and an average candidate.  In the system, everyone appears equal.  You are sorting by keywords.  There is no way to understand accomplishments, goals achieved or anything unique about personality.

I'm all for tools that make life easier, more productive, and faster. But by eliminating the human element from this process, you're letting great people fall through a system when you should be leveraging this opportunity to cultivate relationships with potential candidates who could play a significant role in your business in the future.

Use this process to differentiate you from your competitors and attract better qualified candidates.   Be Human!

I recently had a meeting with a potential client and noticed that on his floor, housing about 15 employees, were video cameras in each corner on the ceiling.

At the outset of our meeting, I asked the CEO if they had a problem with crime in this location.  He laughed.  He shared that his staff, from top to bottom, “wasted time” on Facebook and other websites.  They talked too much and were unproductive.  His solution was to implement keystroke tracking software and the video cameras.   

I asked how that was working.  He shared that the employees had stopped accessing the sites on the computers, but now did so on their personal phones.  He had one of his HR executives review the video footage and keystroke data to see how much time employees were actually working.

I asked how he thought his interventions would improve performance?  He laughed “it doesn’t – too much.  But now a few may be scared they’ll lose their job since they know we’re watching.  They may feel a little more compelled to actually do work.”

Employee Tracking is Quite Pervasive These Days
How are employees being tracked?  In almost every way you could imagine.  

If you work on an office computer, your bosses can not only legally (in many countries) monitor your company email and internet browser history, they can also log keystrokes to check your productivity and even see what you type on private services like Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. If you have a work cellphone, your employer can pinpoint your precise location through GPS – even when you are “off  the clock”.

A survey from the American Management Association found that at least 66 percent of U.S. companies monitor their employees' internet use, 45 percent log keystrokes, and 43 percent track employee emails.

To be clear, there are various types of monitoring that are necessary for a business to be successful. For example, a call center may record its calls, not to spy on their employees but for overall quality control or in the event that details from any particular call may be needed later.

Additionally, modern technology has greatly expanded the possibilities for employee analysis. For instance, a point-of-sale computer system connected to a cash register can capture how well a server sells customers on the latest "meal deal"; at a supermarket, such a device can record how quickly a cashier scans each grocery item. With this information, management can determine efficiency ratios and optimal output which can drive business effectiveness.

Additionally, A 2013 study of five chain restaurants found that eateries that used point-of-sale surveillance systems saw a 22 percent drop in theft on average, and a 7 percent increase in revenue.

Connect to inspire, not to fear.  If you are tracking work activity out of necessity or to improve performance, let your employees know.  And let them be involved developing, launching and managing the initiative.

If you’re “spying”,  that means there is a significant trust issue.  And no amount of software will fix that.  You just need to jump right in and address the issue.  If there are a few bad apples, get them out.  In a toxic environment, they will spoil the bunch.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set clear goals and hold people accountable.  If goals are not being met in the designated time, then dig deeper and find out why.  Create an environment that supports your team to succeed not one of mistrust . 

Your employees are your most valuable resource and the fuel that makes your business successful.  

To get and keep the best and brightest engage them instead of making them feel like children or criminals.

Share your thoughts with us on these topics.  What policies do you find work well for you?  What are policies that you have recently changed?