Rules and processes are essential in any type of business; organizations can’t operate without them. Policies are in place to ensure efficiency, quality, compliance, safety, and that performance standards are met to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction. At the most basic level, policies allow organizations to build consistency, dependability, and authority into what would otherwise be chaos. After all, organizations like to be organized.
Like most of you, I get the value, but what happens when organizations, managers, or leaders take it a bit too far, and rules are put in place to deal with the worst-case employee and negatively impact your best employees? In that instance, all of your employees are held to the new standard. Why does this happen? Is it the fear of addressing the difficult employee situation head-on? Is it easier to manage by policy than to remember that people are unique individuals with different situations, skill sets and levels, needs, motivations, and drives?
What if we limited the policies to the basics and built them to support the highest-performing individuals on the team? Rather than creating blanket policies to inhibit certain behaviors, leaders could take on the more challenging task of managing employees who aren’t getting their jobs done or causing issues. Imagine how your best performers would thrive if they weren’t constrained by policy limitations; if they felt valued because they were empowered, appreciated, and trusted to do the work that you’ve asked them to do.
When you look closely, many policies are also put in place because leaders are afraid to lose control. When organizations have these types of rules built around a leader’s fears, it decreases trust and decreases employee flexibility and individualization. Remember, we are learning that millennials and Generation Z like to be treated as individuals rather than numbers. Whether you have an overly aggressive attendance policy that doesn’t allow for forgiveness and flexibility or you have built an environment supported by policies where mistakes are not tolerated, it is time to rethink your approach and put the employee at the forefront.
This is especially true for us at Maximus, as we are a hearts-and-minds organization. Our policies should support the goals of the business, our customers, and our employees, so we continue to work toward that goal. We are working hard to streamline our policies and to ensure that our policies are employee friendly.
We must also work together to empower leaders to inspire and not control, to think for themselves, to make decisions that will best impact their teams, and to take the initiative to do what’s right. All of us working together will move all our policies in the right direction with an emphasis on ensuring the needs of all stakeholders are met.