I once worked for an organization that had a 20 page travel policy. This policy went into excruciating detail about the dos and don’ts of travel, including the limits of how much could be spent at each meal. This was just one example of a practice that set the tone of distrust and micromanagement throughout the organization. Whether the company intended to or not, the leadership team created an employer-centered culture that left little room for ownership and empowerment.
As a former human resources executive, I can appreciate protecting the organization by being explicit with boundaries and expectations. But I believe many organizations are taking it too far. We have become so extreme in our efforts to ensure employees don’t take advantage of the organization, that we take an offensive approach by creating policies and practices that nearly take the common sense out of working. The result is a culture where employees feel micromanaged, deflated and uninspired.
Many organizations focus on implementing engagement activities to retain employees, but often neglect to look at practices that might be driving away great employees. What sets the exceptional organization apart from the mediocre organization is a balanced approach to ensure all practices are cultivating an environment of engagement and ownership.
Below are three strategies to ensure you are not driving away great employees:
Shift from employer-centered to employee-centered. This is a leadership mindset that creates the overall culture of the organization. Take a look at all your policies, practices, handbooks, employee experiences, letters, and so on, and determine if they are employer-centered or employee-centered. Do they set a tone of trust and ownership, or of micromanagement and distrust? Employer-centered policies assume that people need everything spelled out for them and are highly specific and rigid.
Employee-centered policies provide guidelines, but treat employees as adults and assumes they will use common sense.
Create an exceptional onboarding experience. Put yourself in the shoes of a new employee when you look at your practices and ask yourself if this is an organization you would love to work for.
If you were a new employee reading over your company handbook, would you bristle, or feel welcomed? One of my clients starting sending an Edible Arrangement to new employees the week before they started work with the organization. The impact from this practice has been phenomenal. The CEO has received appreciate voicemails from new hires, and many have remarked that they felt very special and welcomed. What can you do to create an awesome experience for new hires that wins them over as soon as they join your team?
Become a purposeful leader. Most leaders take a reactive approach to management rather than a purposeful and meaningful approach. A purposeful leader is in touch with the departmental culture and focuses on cultivating an environment of development, coaching, and involvement. Two of the top reasons employees leave organizations is that they don’t receive quality feedback and that they don’t get the coaching they need to develop. Traditional managers are driving away great employees by only reacting when necessary and not designing a meaningful relationship with employees to provide feedback and coaching and involve them in decisions.