Why do so many ideas and practices that are held as settled truths at work end up being so frustrating and unpopular with the very people they’re supposed to serve? (See 9 Lies About Work,’ Marcus Buckingham).
Deeply flawed processes, systems and assumptions - everywhere at work. It’s no wonder employee engagement is low; no wonder that global workplace productivity has declined steadily.
Why do people persist in doing it?!?
It’s undoubtedly to do with control. ‘Companies talk about diversity – then do everything possible to remove the very thing about people that brings the diversity – their uniqueness (See Employee Engagement: A Different Approach.’ EGM Blog). They do this by putting people into boxes and frameworks, aligning them and getting them to behave the same way – and everyone suffers.
And, as it says in the (leaked) Tesla staff handbook:
‘We can’t afford to waste our time dealing with stupid stuff when we have so many important things to get done.’
This is the critical truth in the business world today.
So, this blog is dedicated to people who can think for themselves; people who reject dogma and seek out evidence; people who see things as they are. People who know that the only way to make work better tomorrow is to have the courage and wit to face up to how it really is today.
In 2017, Liz Ryan set out 10 HR ideas that have seen their day and needed to die immediately.
With credit to Liz, here’s our list in 2020. We’ve got it down to a list of 9 ideas:
Annual Performance Appraisals – ‘What can possibly be the purpose of reviewing the past year and calling out mistakes? Giving an employee a ranking or grade like they’re still at school?’ Performance Appraisals are bureaucratic, subjective, pointless and demotivating. That’s why most smart companies have killed them off.’ Well said, Liz.
360 Degree Feedback – ‘Who has ever said with a straight face to a colleague - we’re going to help you perform to a higher level by asking your co-workers to give anonymous feedback on your shortcomings – without attribution, specific details or context around the events that led to the feedback? What a great way to kill trust in a team.’ (Liz Ryan).
Ratings and Rankings – Why would anyone think they can objectively rate colleagues and rank them ‘best to worse?’ The truth is people aren’t able to rate or rank others objectively on anything.
Competency Models – Surely, we’re not the only ones who think competency models are subjective and superficial? A competency - a thing you’re supposed to have to do well at your job. Select competencies that you think top performers have (honest - there’s hundreds of them – teamwork, business awareness, customer focus, tenacity….), group them together, guess the levels for each job and rate the person against them (ouch….). Rate against phrases such as – ‘Financial Control - Harry puts thought into his budget requests, and reviews costs throughout the year to identify adjustments.’ Competencies for roles are impossible to define and measure and the approach is of very limited use in the real world.
Working on Development Areas – Who hasn’t been told they have to work on their weaknesses to get on (development areas)? An output of the competency model – the individual is encouraged to work on their lower scores. The ‘gaps have to be plugged’ - everyone has to be well-rounded. Flawed thinking: the truth is - to really become a high performer, individuals are better working on their strengths than eradicating their weaknesses In the video, count how many times Lionel Messi kicks the ball with his strong foot (left), then count how many times he kicks it with his weaker foot (right). Presumably Lionel’s coach forget to tell him he had to improve his weaker foot to be the best footballer on the planet? Perhaps he should start again.
Cascaded ‘Aligned’ Objectives – Have you looked at your objectives recently? If you have, you’re special – it’s estimated that less than 5% of employees check their objectives on a regular basis The truth is that the annual cascade of objectives from above is hardly the best start to evaluate performance at work. Those doing the work know the objective setting process is a meaningless ritual that has little connection with the real world - even it did, events quickly sweep away any control we have on the outcomes.
Attendance as a Performance Issue – Given the amount of literature on work-life balance, scan anyone deny that people are on call long into their own time? If your company watches the time you arrive and leave the office without considering the work you do at home, they don’t deserve you.
No reference Policies for Good Ex -Employees – Would you expect a great reference from an employer you’d done really well at? Truth is companies are so afraid of comeback, they’re more likely to simply confirm the dates you worked there. A sad send off.
Impersonal Recruitment and Selection Screening – Applied for a new job recently? There’s a possibility your CV would have been cheeked for ‘key words’ and gets no further than the company’s Application Tracking System. Given the amount of time you spend of your application, you’d probably expect more.
Score 1 point for every item above that your company has in place,
For scores of 5 or over – ask the question: ‘does my company really deserve me?