Remove value reducing regulations

At the start of 2015 it is time for individuals and organisations to review the regulations that exist in their lives and organisations that actually hinder and demotivate. I was recently told by a senior HR executive that it was easier to add new regulations than to review existing ones to assess their relevance and effectiveness. The main reason given was the difficulty in finding the reasons for implementing some of the old regulations and thus creating uncertainty in removing them. Considering that some regulations were introduced in the late 20th Century to meet the needs of the industrial command/control management systems their redundancy should be self-evident.

Reflecting later on the conversation it struck me that the hesitancy could be due to a fear of doing something that would back-fire in the future. Many regulations were introduced as a reaction to new industrial laws as well as to perceived misconduct by individuals or groups. Placed against a construct of managing in 2015 and the general improved capability of most people many regulations just don’t make sense in today’s working world.

On reviewing HR regulations in an organisation it was interesting to note that around 50% could be considered best practice and relevant to enabling today’s business environment. However, around 20% of them were in response to perceived misconduct or violations of existing rules with another 20% in response to changing regulations whilst the remaining 10% was instituted by management.

From self to corporate responsibility

My interest in HR regulations and rules was sparked by the number of comments that I received over the years about the general demotivating effect many had on team members. This encouraged me to explore in more detail why there appeared to be a lack of understanding about the downside of some rules and regulations. The unsurprising outcome was that a significant number of the rules and regulations were in response to legislation with Health & Safety and Industrial Relations being the two biggest culprits. The impression that this gives is that personal responsibility is continually being replaced by so called corporate responsibility. This is a very worrying trend in that it mitigates from encouraging people to become self-managing in a responsible and productive manner.

Personalising working practices

An interesting trend emerging in many sectors of business and commerce is the notion of personalising the service provided. By collecting information from different loyalty schemes organisations are able to determine the purchasing patterns of their customers. This enables them to tailor their offerings to meet the specific needs of customers and encouraging them to buy by offering discounts etc. Extending this practice into the working environment could pay significant dividends in terms of team member satisfaction coupled with higher productivity.

I have noticed that some organisations have gone some way towards this concept by introducing flexible working hours, off-site working, team based projects, time off without needing permission, flexible holiday times, etc. Giving team members the responsibility to design and implement a personalised working environment would provide organisations with a potentially powerful productive environment. I can almost hear the cry that giving this degree of freedom to people will result in abuse by some taking advantage of what some would consider lax rules and control.

This is exactly the reason that many very potentially powerful ideas have been shelved in the past because ‘management’ have pounced on the fact that one or two team members have in their opinion abused the opportunity. An example that has surfaced many times is the opportunity to have one day a week where team members could ditch the corporate wear and come dressed in smart casual clothes. The problem that ‘management’ encountered was the definition of ‘smart casual’ in that the ‘management’ perception could be significantly different from a team member’s perception. Therefore the one or two spirited or challenging members would dress in ways that caused some ‘management’ members apoplexy resulting in a ban. An alternative outcome was a discussion that agreed on a simple dress code that would enable everyone to be comfortable when coming to work on the free day. After a few weeks it would be obvious to almost everyone what dress was acceptable or not.

Personalisation could reduce inequality

Inequality is very much like a cancer in the way that it eats into the healthy fabric of any organisation. When team members or leaders act in ways that portray superiority with the intention of making other team leaders or members feel inferior the result tends to be resentment, dysfunctional relationships, poor morale, and lost productivity. Providing team members throughout the organisation with the power to tailor their working conditions and relationships in ways that fit with what needs to be achieved would provide a significant boost to motivation.

Organisational leaders would need to be courageous and have patience coupled with tempering any action that could jeopardise the journey to higher productivity and team member satisfaction. There is a high probability that someone will push the envelope in ways that test the courage of ‘management’ to continue with a personalisation strategy. Seeing it as the one-off deviation rather than a trend should give them the confidence to deal with the deviant in ways that encourage other team member to play by the personalising rules

Personalising rules

One of the most compelling reasons for moving to personalising the working environment  is the fact that everyone is different to some degree. It is also true that human beings tend to be flexible and adaptable which is the main reason they initially ‘fit’ into the different organisational cultures. Given an appropriate culture the relationships can prosper whereas with an inappropriate culture relationships can wither with negative consequences on morale and productivity. Allowing team members the opportunity to personalise their working environment in cooperation with colleagues can provide a basis for productive effort coupled with sound relationships.

Here are are a few of the key rules that could be agreed on with the team to enable effective personalisation to be carried out:

  1. All team members would be well briefed on what they needed to achieve and be equipped with the resources needed to effectively make their contribution.
  2. When personalising their work environment team members would take into account the needs of other team members also working in close proximity. They would strive to create an environment that added value to the whole team working environment.
  3. All team members would be acutely aware of how their contribution meshed with the contribution of other team members in ways that ensured that what needed to be achieved was done effectively.
  4. Cooperation and collaboration would be a core principle to the way everyone worked to achieve the agreed outputs/outcomes.
  5. Team leaders and members would have regular dialogues to explore how things were going and to agree any action required to keep the team on course.
  6. Feedback on progress would be ongoing with constructive help given to team members who experienced difficulty in achieving what was expected.

It is generally accepted that ordinary team members can achieve extraordinary things and this should give organisational leaders the confidence to move to personalisation even if it takes a leap of faith.

If you have any comments on this blog I would appreciate hearing from you by either contacting me by email at tom.jaap@centell.org or leaving a comment on the blog.

Best wishes

Tom

 

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