NEW PROBLEM NEW RULE
Picture this. A small local business has a total of 25 employees. One of those employees is consistently late to work. The boss has mentioned it a few times, but nothing changes. One morning the employee comes in late on a particularly bad day for the boss. The boss has had enough. She orders a time clock for the office, and writes a new policy that everyone must clock in and out. A few weeks later the boss notices a customer standing around waiting for help. Another employee, who should be assisting the customer, is distracted because she’s on her Facebook account. The irritated boss writes another new policy. Employees are no longer allowed to go on any social networking sites while at work.
This scenario points out a very common habit; rather than deal with an employee problem, the boss writes a new policy and expects the problem to be resolved. With each new policy, your star employees are further punished and left wondering why the policy is needed. Over time, this habit leads to restrictive environments and rule books that are too large to memorize.
Organizational values can help. If you hire, fire, train, reward and communicate towards defined strategic values, restrictive and detailed rules are no longer needed. The “right way” is known without the rule book. Here’s an example. Let’s say that ambition is one of your core business values. One of the ways you’ve defined this to employees is by stating that everyone is expected to practice exceptional time management skills. You explain the “why” behind this. It’s discussed in interviews and new employee orientations. It’s listed on job descriptions. Employees are rewarded for exceptional time management practices, and training to improve this skill set is provided. When an employee consistently comes to work late, you don’t need a new restrictive rule or a time clock. They are not meeting the expectation, made very clear, of exceptional time management. They are not adhering to the core value of ambition. Now deal with it. Similarly, when an employee’s time on Facebook leaves a customer standing around with no help, that’s not practicing exceptional time management either. You don’t need a new rule; you just need to deal with the problem. An added benefit is that employees are more willing to accept expectations that are tied to values, than they are to accept a constantly growing rule book brought on by unresolved problems.