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There are two parts of every modern business that I believe are being impacted more than most in the digital revolution: HR & IT

Both these departments came to be as grudge expenses. As issues relating to staffing; hiring & firing; leave & general management of the work force grew so did the need to have a way of managing the process. As technology took a more vital role in business so there was a need to have a department to take care of and maintain the technology.  These were by no means leadership areas.  They were simply a necessary evil to keep the great wheels of industry in motion.

Remarkably though HR & IT now sit at the forefront of our drive into digital transformation. As I have expounded many times on this podcast and through my presentations and writing, Digital Transformation is a two sided proposition: People and Technology. You can’t focus on either at the expense of the other.  Transformation without technology is pointless; transformation without people is a road to nowhere.

IT used to “just” look after security and maintenance of physical technology. However, since technology is now developing at exponential rates it is crucial that IT move to a leadership role in order to guide the reinvention of business models and ways of reaching customers and enabling teams to work faster and smarter.

Today’s podcast focuses on Human Resources: HR. As the world becomes more technologically advanced so does our need bring out the best in the greatest resource of every business, their people! In the last 100 years we have seen a complete reversal of the view and treatment of people.  In the thick of the industrial revolution people were viewed more as (replaceable) tools rather than central to crafting and growing business.  A smart business today looks to reinvent how their people work together and participate the forward direction of that business.

With this is mind I’m I came across an article toward the end of last year that has great bearing on this.  I would be very interested to hear from HR people on this and how you see it from your point of the view.

The article was written by Liz Ryan who is a regular writer for Forbes and an HR specialist herself. The original article you can find here. It’s titled “Ten Obnoxious Company Rules to Kill in 2017”. She has worked in HR for over 30 years and I loved the sentiment of the article. She makes the observation that in 30 years of practice in HR she still sees a vast number of companies following the rules carved out last century.

I’m going to take you through these 10 points which she says should have disappeared long ago and if your company is still following these rules, then now is a great time to step in to the modern age by killing them off!

Here we go:

  1. Get rid of any rule that links time off from work with a disciplinary infraction. If an employee needs time off to deal with a personal issue (a kid’s illness, a court date, a plumber’s visit, an automotive repair, etc.) and they don’t have available paid time off to cover the absence, then don’t pay them — but don’t put a black mark in their personnel file! You hire adults. Don’t treat them like children.

In the industrial age it made sense to manage people strictly. They were getting nothing out of the job other than a pay check. Today trust is a hallmark of a modern business. You need to go first by trusting your people.

  1. Kill the policy that requires an employee who wants to apply for an internal transfer to get their manager’s permission first. You can’t stop your employees from applying for jobs with your competitors. If you make it hard for employees to transfer internally, they’ll take the path of least resistance and leave your company altogether.

I’ve covered this in some length in my discussion on Frictionless businesses. Every business today is either eliminating or generating friction.  The digital economy demands that we move to eliminating friction because where it is not eliminated it is created. Don’t make it hard!

  1. Get rid of any policy that stacks or ranks your employees against one another. Vile and pointless stack-ranking programs are ineffective, expensive and trust-killing atrocities.

A far better culture and trust building exercise is to have a “transformative purpose” and focus the energy and attention of your workforce to living that purpose.  Your business exists for a reason and the best ambassadors for your purpose are your people. This will focus their attention externally rather than internally against one another.

  1. Nuke the policy that requires employees to bring in a funeral notice to prove that a family member died, just to collect a few days’ bereavement pay. If you can’t trust your employees at a time like that, when would you ever trust them?

The crazy thing about trust is that someone has to go first.  You need to go first and the obvious issues that will arise if a culture of trusts is built they will trust you too.

  1. Lose the painfully-detailed dress code policy that talks down to your employees with stitch-level instructions on what to wear to work. Instead, simply tell them “Dress appropriately for a business office, and err on the side of caution.” No matter how elaborate the dress code policy you write, your managers are still going to have to talk with employees about their wardrobe choices from time to time. That’s part of a manager’s job. Don’t insult all of your employees just to try (fruitlessly) to avoid a few awkward conversations!

Marry Barra is the first female CEO of General Motors.  When she took the job a few years ago one of the first things she did in a broader effort to simplify was to deal with the dress code.  She did pretty much exactly this.  A 26-page dress code policy was replaced by just two words: Dress appropriately! This is a further extension of trust. When you don’t trust your people and they don’t trust you there is a need to micromanage everything. When trust is prevalent however, it’s not complicated and a statement to “dress appropriately” makes sense.

  1. Get rid of the policy that lets salaried employees stay at work finishing projects until seven or eight o’clock at night without compensation or thanks but gives them a demerit if they walk into work five minutes late in the morning.

In addition I would add that we have to do our part if killing the culture of glorifying being “busy”. A focus on our results and being productive not just being busy. This culture encourages people to constantly work late which produces tired, resentful people.  Work is the major part of our lives so don’t make people hate it. Allow them the balance to have a full life which includes their families and social life.

  1. Kill the policy that prohibits your managers from giving glowing references to great employees once they’ve moved on. These horrendous policies assume that your managers are too stupid to give a reference without sliming a former employee and thereby exposing your company to a defamation charge. Are your managers that stupid? If so, how stupid are you for hiring them?

Indeed. People should look back on their time with you with fondness. Let them be ambassadors for your business even though they no longer work for you.

  1. Abolish the policy that bases an employee’s annual salary increase on any factor apart from the employee’s market value. Across-the-board pay increase policies tell your employees “We’re giving you all two percent raises this year — if you can get more from somebody else, you’d be foolish not to go get it!” The best employees will do so — after all, isn’t it every employee’s right and obligation to get paid what they’re worth?

I don’t think this needs any other comment!

  1. Lose the policy that doesn’t count or value work that doesn’t happen in your facility. It’s almost 2017, and smart employers embraced flextime and the ability to work from home long ago. So should you!

The remote office is a thing now. Do it. Studies show that there tends to be greater engagement rather than what many fear would be disengagement.

1o. Finally, go through your policy manual and your employee handbook and get rid of every policy that treats your employees like potential criminals — the way a depressing number of traditional company policies do. You and your employees are on the same side – there’s no “us” versus “them.”

If there is an “us” and a “them” in your company, your culture is broken! All the energy you might spend protecting your company against your own employees is energy that should go to serving your customers, delighting your shareholders and making your organization an amazing, vibrant, human place to work.

Focus on and reward what is done right. This practice has shown again and again that that is how you build a positive culture.

So, that’s it. Where does your HR department stand on these issues? Is it stuck in 20th century thinking or moving to the vibrant 21st century way of doing business?