Five Stupid Rules That Drive Great Employees Away
It is hard to unlearn the messages that we have heard repeated since we were children. One of them is “Business is a stiff and formal place. To be human and spontaneous is fun, but it isn’t professional!”
Some organizations understand the connection between passion and performance, but a lot of them missed that memo completely. They run their organizations like prison camps. I know, because my inbox fills up every day with mail from folks who could get a demerit for coming back three minutes late from lunch — and I’m talking about Knowledge Workers!
Some CEOs are out of touch. Their HR leaders might try to get them to wake up and smell the new-millennium talent market coffee, but self-delusion is a powerful drug.
Sometimes it takes a shock — a wave of top employees hitting the bricks and going to work for your competitors, for instance — to deliver the message “The only way you can keep great employees in the company is by treating them like great employees.”
If you are the person delivering this person, try not to add an extra “Duh!” at the end.
Here are five truly idiotic HR policies that will keep your best employees racing for the exits the minute they get the chance — and keep you re-filling the same positions over and over until somebody pulls the needle out of your chief executive’s arm.
Industrial Revolution-Era Attendance Policies
You can’t hire Knowledge Workers, give them meaty problems to solve and then watch their comings and goings as though they were kids being dropped off at daycare. They are adults, for starters, and beyond that you hired them. You could have hired anybody. Presumably your hiring process is thorough. Why would you hire people you don’t trust? Don’t you trust yourself enough to hire great people? If somebody works after hours in the evening you should expect to see them arriving late the next morning. You don’t have to track those hours. If you’re tracking hours for salaried employees, you are unclear on the concept of a salary.
Insulting Performance Review Processes
It’s high time we got rid of all individual performance reviews. They are pointless and a huge waste of time, but some review processes are more insulting than others. If you give your managers a bell curve and tell them that only a certain percentage of employees can be rated top performers, another percentage average performers and so on, then you are literally designing mediocrity into your team. Is that what you want?
Stack ranking is an abomination and the opposite of a leadership practice, since it pits employees against one another instead of encouraging collaboration. You don’t need any of this nonsense to run your business. Talk about goals and progress whenever you want. Talk about learning from mistakes whenever it makes sense. Annual reviews have long outlived any utility they ever had as a leadership tool.
Manager’s-Choice Transfer And Promotion Policies
Painfully slowly leaders at large and small organizations are learning that you can legislate almost anything, but that doesn’t mean you control it. Most large and many medium-sized organizations still have policies in place that require an employee who wants to apply for a different job in the company to get his or her manager’s approval first.
Any person with three functioning brain cells can instantly think of plenty of good reasons why a manager might prevent a qualified and eager employee from moving into another job. It’s a pain in the neck to replace a key employee. You might want to keep a great person on your team to boost your own chances at getting promoted.
If you’re a great employee and you want to leave your department, your manager might block your transfer or promotion.
Why would anybody give managers total control over their team members’ career advancement? All a frustrated employee has to do is say “Oh, well – thanks for considering it, anyway” to the boss who refused to sign his transfer application and immediately get his resume out on the street. Now the company will lose the great employee altogether. Is that smart?
HR people working together with your employees should arrange transfer and promotion interviews. If an employee doesn’t get the job he applied for, his or her manager never even needs to know about it. If s/he gets the job, the manager can be brought into the loop at that point.
Impenetrable Pay Structures
The real world is moving too fast for old-fashioned pay grades and bands, much less hidebound policies that red-circle or limit an employee’s ability to earn more money even when he or she is contributing massively to the organization’s success. I doubt that your CEO and his or her team get paid according to a chart on the wall in HR, so why should anybody else? Worse yet, many employers are anything but transparent when it comes to the topic of pay.
If an employee asks “What would I need to do get a decent pay raise?” and the answer is “Nothing you can do will get you more than a three-and-a-half-percent raise this year” expect your company to be a revolving door for talent — if you can get talented people to work for you at all.
Too Many Policies In General
You know that nobody reads your employee handbook, right? You know that everyone ignores your sleep-inducing HR memos and bulletins, too, don’t you?
Most organizations have way too many policies and they keep cranking out new ones, even though no one has so much as glanced at the old ones gathering dust in the corner. If your employee handbook is more than fifty pages long, you can collect all the signature pages you want from employees and put them in the personnel files, but no one is actually reading the handbook. Some employers don’t care. They just want your signature to prove that you took responsibility for reading the handbook.
I will destroy them in a deposition if they make the argument that the signature page in the personnel file means they made a true effort to communicate their policies — for instance, policies prohibiting sexual harassment or discrimination.
If you really want people to read your policies and follow them, get rid of half of them.
Make the other half of them topics of daily conversation at every level, from the CEO’s podium to the paystub. Reinforce those messages every chance you get, in word and in deed, and not from the standpoint “If you were thinking about breaking one of our policies, don’t do it, because we’ll fire you!” but from the standpoint “We are committed to making this place safe and awesome for you, our team members.”
It’s a new day, and the Human Workplace is already here. Is your company stepping into it?