Breaking news

Anywhere, USA – This morning we got word that someone in HR created a policy. We’re not sure what the policy was as of the time of this report; however, we were assured by our sources that it was “highly necessary” for the business to continue functioning.Policy

Our resident HR expert, Stu Pidhead, had this to say, “I have been a long-time believer in policies. Without them our employees would run rampant, exercise their own judgment, and be able to do pretty much whatever they want. How can we expect to run a business when employees have autonomy for how the work gets done or choices when it comes to rewards and recognition? No, no, and no. We have to restrict those things for the good of our employees and the world. They just don’t know better, and we have to educate them.” Continue reading

Decision making isn’t always a process of identifying and communicating facts. There’s often an underlying foundation of history, preferences, and other elements that add a layer to the decision making process. Recently I talked about how even something as seemingly simple as a policy decision can be affected by the organization’s culture.

culture policy decisionThe corporate culture influences the determination from the initial consideration through to the final steps of implementation. Over at the Brandon Hall Group blog, we’ll look at some of those underlying factors and how you can leverage them to make policy decisions stick.

Check out Culture Drives Policy Implementation at Human Resources Today to learn more

If you’ve hung around here for very long, you know I’m not a big fan of policies. We don’t have a massive handbook for new hires that they have to sign on the first day claiming that they’ve read and understood the entire thing. I don’t look for opportunities to create new policies. I don’t let managers talk me into creating new policies.

tipping point swingSo I’ve set the stage, right? I am very un-policy relative to my companions in the HR profession.

The policy alternative

What I do instead is offer coaching for managers and employees on how to handle issues.

Have an employee who’s consistently coming in late? That’s not against any rules. How’s her performance? Oh, that’s suffering? Then let’s have a talk with her about that, not the time she’s coming in to work.

Every time something comes up that we don’t currently have a policy for, I push for coaching and communication. And I might sound like a broken record, but I have managers who now laugh when they start telling me a problem, because they know that the answer is not going to be a shiny new policy or a rule.

But I do understand that this isn’t a permanent solution. We do have some policies on key things (timekeeping, paid time off, etc.) that people can check out on the intranet.

What I really want to know is where the tipping point is.

When do policies make sense?

When are we large enough for a policy to make sense? The thing that I keep thinking of is that a few isolated incidents are coaching issues. Here is the internal checklist I use to determine when a policy might be the answer:

  • Is this a major legal risk if we don’t have this policy in place? Be realistic!
  • Is this going to impact our customers negatively if we don’t have a policy in place?
  • Is it going to disrupt operations internally if we don’t have a policy? (Note: additional coaching time for HR/managers is not enough to warrant this.)
  • Are we distributed enough that we are no longer comfortable with local managers making these decisions? Is it a problem with our managers?

That’s not the entire list, but it’s the first initial steps I take when trying to determine if a policy is worth creating.

Advice on keeping your policies manageable

Tim Gardner, another HR blogger and friend, has some great advice.

To your question: Create a policy when existing policies and practices are either in conflict with the businesses needs, or inadequate for the potential of a situation that is likely to re-occur. And think about a policies like clothes in a full closet. If something comes in, is there something you aren’t likely to wear again that you can get rid of?

My two biggest rules for policy creation were outlined in a post from 3 years ago, and they still ring true for me today.

  • Don’t create a policy for the sake of having one
  • Don’t create policies for outliers

And finally, if you have never read my Open Letter to HR on Policies and Training, then you should stop and take two minutes to do that now. It was a semi-rant that I wrote a while back to address the crazy trend of employers trying to use policies instead of common sense.

I’d love to hear from some of you with a similar mindset of policy minimalism. When do you decide to put a new policy in place? Why? What’s your criteria? Do you ever revisit “old” ones to update or eliminate? 

social media policyEvery once in a while I hear someone talking about needing a “social media policy” at work. Ugh. If you know me at all you’ll instantly guess that I’m against such things. I would rather offer training instead of more regulation. Here are four reasons you probably don’t need a social media policy at all:

  • Conversations can happen anywhere. You don’t have a “parking lot conversations” policy, so why create a separate, special policy just for social media? People can do as much damage talking about your company in a crowded restaurant as they can with a Facebook post, but you don’t see anyone creating policies on that.
  • Is it worth your time? Is your core business function monitoring social media or creating/delivering a product or service? You can stand over peoples’ shoulders as long as you want but it’s not going to add value to be business.
  • We’re listening to the lawyers on this? When has a lawyer ever said, “You know what? You really don’t need a policy for that specific situation” with regard to the employer/employee relationship? I’m guessing never. If we listened to the lawyers and their scare tactics we’d have a handbook that rivals the size of the Alabama state constitution.
  • Are they adults or not? If not, then you’re breaking a few child labor laws. If so, then we need to treat them like it. If you act like they are childish and incapable of handling themselves, then they will be. If you treat them as respectable, functional adults, then they will be (for the most part). Don’t make policies for outliers. That guy who clips his toenails on his desk? Don’t make a toenail-clipping-at-your-desk policy. Pull him aside and tell him it’s inappropriate. I’ll say it again: don’t make policies for outliers.

I’m sure there are more! What are your reasons for companies to forego a social media policy?

I enjoy talking about policies and whether or not policies are necessary. Recently someone asked me what I thought about a policy on working through lunch. The phrasing led me to believe that their employees were working from their desks while eating (and by working I mean surfing the web).

So, with that in mind, did I recommend a “no eating at your desk rule?”

No.

I encouraged my friend to look at the situation in the context of job performance. If employees are completing work and abiding by the rules, leave them be. On the other hand, if it is affecting performance by causing them to not finish their work on time, have more mistakes, etc., then approach the situation from that legitimate standpoint.

A follow up comment by my friend was that the policy would be “too hard to manage” if done piecemeal, so it should be a flat ban across the board if it went into effect. My response was that people choosing to eat at their desks or not isn’t something that really requires management (or attention) unless it impacts their level of performance.

This isn’t 1910. We don’t have to stand over people every minute of the day to “crack the whip” and make them work. If you do, then you have larger problems on your hands.

Focus more on what is accomplished and less on the how.

What are your thoughts?

Pants policyTwo great comments stood out to me when I attended the session on running a small HR department recently, but they prompted a related question I need a little help with.

Don’t create a policy just for the sake of having one.

Fantastic. We have too many policies as it is. Totally agree.

Don’t create policies to deal with outliers.

Another good one. Use coaching and one-on-one feedback to handle issues with onesies and twosies; don’t punish the bunch because of one bad apple.

So… When do you?

The question I have is when do you create a policy? When does it go beyond personal one-on-one coaching and become “official?” One of my friends has a saying, “Don’t make me create a policy for that.” :-) While it’s said in jest, there has to be a time where a policy is necessary (right?).

So… When?

Let’s hear some thoughts and suggestions!

AKA An open letter to HR professionals who think it’s a good idea to regulate the snot out of everything

Dear fellow HR professionals,

Hey! So, I’m not sure if you know much about me, but I’m a different kind of HR guy. I like being open and honest and treating people like… Well, people. Our employees aren’t children (and if they are, that’s a whole other issue!), so why do we treat them that way?

This ain’t my first rodeo

I talked about this before in a video. I attended a supervisor training where we spent two whole days listening to people whose favorite phrases were don’t do this and don’t do that. I can understand setting those minimum standards, but I don’t understand why there’s no attempt to reach higher. Why aren’t we giving our people lessons on coaching and leadership in addition to the rest of that stuff?

Think about it Continue reading