Now, what can you do to make sure that the upcoming year will be better than the last? The goal is to give the workplace a new definition that is not synonymous with a scornful sentiment. More employee flexibility, new perspectives, and freedom to take on value-adding challenges. Do yourself a favor and forget any practices that are not conducive to an open, constructive space.
Give Employee Flexibility A Clear Definition
Not clearly defining what employee flexibility means for the individual. This is your first mistake when managing a team of employees.
If only the term ’employee flexibility’ had a standardized definition that we could look up in a dictionary.
Alas, the term has developed a meaning of its own depending on who you ask or who you work for.
In the workplace, this varies from allowing employees some flex time to cutting their weeks in half. Having the ability to step away from the desk for a short period is better than a hard ‘no’ for any kind of flex time.
Furthermore, some are going to need more flexibility than others. Working parents are going to need more leeway than those without so much responsibility.
If employees need to step away from the desk to pick up their sick child from school, they should have the ability to do so.
They’re going to feel the burden of a strict schedule and in turn, this can affect their work rate in the workplace.
Stuff happens. Reality is always knocking on our door to remind us that nothing ever has to go as planned.
Yet, the more understanding that managers are, the more respect they will earn from their employees.
Get Rid Of Annual Performance Reviews
There are several things wrong with this obsolete procedure.
The first is that annual performance reviews are subject to recency bias. Meaning if you did something awesome at the beginning of the year, it will no longer be relevant. Expect several cases of amnesia during this time, because no one will remember what you did 11 months ago or say anything positive about it.
Second, these reviews are a huge drain on management due to the amount of time they take to plan and carry out.
Consider the time it takes to prepare documents, hold discussions, create reports, and gather feedback.
Depending on the size of the company, costs can range anywhere from the thousands to the millions.
This doesn’t include the cost of lost work time or negative performance due to anxiety revolving around these reviews.
Instead, consider implementing a procedure for real-time feedback. This is the best chance you have for continuous development concerning your employees and their work, while leaving room for employee flexibility with regards to their schedules and workflow.
Here at Office Libations, we like to keep things fresh.
That’s why we like to have a steady feedback loop so we can always build upon what we’re doing in the moment.
There’s no point in receiving feedback that only would have been helpful 5 months ago.
Be Wary Of Restricting Self-Expression
Did you know when Disney Paris first opened its doors in 1992, the staff was not pleased with park rules?
A part of this was due to management ruling out wine in the park (Ya, they should have seen that one coming). After this little hiccup resolved itself, their next complaint was the dress code.
There were too many restrictions on hair and clothing options for them to be happy in what was supposedly the happiest place on earth. They felt that there were too many rules that dictated what they had to look like and thus, this put a damper on their self-expression.
Granted of course that was in Paris, France in an amusement park, not a corporate office in America.
This brings up a good point though: where do you draw the lines on how employees should look coming into work?
Take tattoos for example. 2020 is on the horizon and we’re still on the fence on whether to display body art or keep it hidden.
Research suggests that today we place more weight on how well-groomed a person is or how well they’re dressed. Yet research also suggests that tattoos may still limit a person’s potential depending on the views of those they come in contact with.
So while tattoos may still limit employee potential, there has never been a more acceptable time for tattoos than the present.
Dress codes, however, are a debatable topic.
Few companies now have a strict dress code. Unless you’re in a consumer-facing position, closing out deals with very important people, there isn’t a need for the stuffy suits.
Here in the bay area, in what we call startup central, work attire has taken on a whole new meaning.
For most companies, dress codes have become much simpler to follow. There really are only 2 common rules to abide by now: dress for the job you want, and avoid looking like a bum.
Throw Out Scheduled Start And End Times
One rule to definitely quit following is any rule on start times, end times, and scheduled breaks.
Similar to strict flexibility standards, any rules that dictate how to use your time can inhibit the natural flow of a person’s work.
The important thing to remember, primarily for salaried employees, is the workload that they have.
As long as they’re getting their work done, do time restrictions really matter?
It’s hardly needed to make them haggle to arrive in the office before the boss, for the sake of appearances. Unless, of course, one’s best work happens in the wee hours of the morning.
In that case, have them come into the office early. That way once they’re done they get to leave early also.
We have peak performance times that don’t tend to stay within the boundaries of a 9-5 job either.
Have you ever found yourself ‘in the zone’ with a steady train of thought that just keeps you going?
Well, what if someone finds themselves in that zone only to realize that their scheduled lunch started 5 minutes ago? They don’t want to lose their train of thought, yet they don’t want to skip their lunch either.
What should they do?
In this instance, it would be easier to allow them the time to take their lunch when they choose. That way they get their best work done without putting a timer on it.
Move On From Stacked Ranking
So, this one isn’t so much a rule as it is a method of evaluation.
Regardless, it still ranks on our list of outdated practices to quit following if you want to improve the future of your business.
Think of stacked ranking like a bell curve distribution. This is a forced distribution where a person is only considered adequate if they can compare to their peers.
It divides employees from the best performers in the top 10% to the middle 80% to supposed poor performers in the bottom 10%. Per custom, those that fall in the bottom 10% face the pink slip’s wrath.
What stacked ranking does is it creates unhealthy competition. Pinning employees against each other discourages other valuable qualities in a business team.
Forget collaboration. All employees are going to be thinking about is how they can best overcome the person next to them.
Stacked ranking is also inconsistent.
This ranking relies on the objectivity of the evaluation. This is fine and all, unless you take into account that managers have subjective opinions.
More to the point, gender bias can influence a manager’s review of their employees.
As a result of mass dissatisfaction from employees, we don’t see this system around much. Stacked ranking is starting to fade out as big companies like Microsoft, Uber, and Amazon drop this method.
Stacked ranking is not the reliable system that it once used to be.
A performance review system should encourage employees to improve upon themselves and their work. It should NOT discourage them which is what you’ll end up with using a stacked ranking system.
Avoid Power Without Permission
OK, we all know policies and procedures are in place for a reason. Handbooks, company policies, generic work-related tasks that must meet the approval of managers, etc.
But there are times when said procedures can feel like hurdles that get harder to jump the more there are.
Employee empowerment is crucial to make them feel like they are creating value in the work they do. It shows a lack of trust however if employees have to ask permission to use such power.
All this does is give employees a false sense of autonomy that will no longer serve to motivate them in their job.
What else can too many procedures result in?
1. Too many hurdles can result in loss of employee motivation due to hindered progress in their job
2. The focus will be on how ‘correct’ the process is instead of the overall goal
3. What starts as a steady guideline becomes an unnecessary, overcomplicated system
4. There is a drop in productivity when managers continue to make decisions that employees are capable of making on their own
High quality work can happen on its own without the need for so many obstacles.
Sometimes simplicity can do better than the most complex of procedures, allowing for direct employee flexibility. With proper training on general procedures, employees can learn to harness their own process for getting work done.
It’s Time To Let Go Of The Past
Take a closer look at your company’s policies and procedures, then take a look at any obstacles you have faced in the workplace.
You’ll find that many of these obstacles have to do with outdated practices no longer relevant for today’s workforce.
Work-life balance is a priority now more than ever as more employees demand work schedules best suited to their personal lives.
Over-complicate the job and you’ll find that the company will achieve less over time.
Take the first step to update the office in a way that will elevate the company for employee flexibility.
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