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February 11, 2019

Simplify Your Bureaucracy by Hiring Great Talent

Stephen Enright

Stephen Enright
Founder/SJE Partners, LLC

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If you really want to simplify your Human Resources Policies and Procedures, rules and regulations, and layered bureaucracy, you might take a trip back in time and revisit the purpose of all that ‘stuff’. In past posts, I have referenced my time at Wang Laboratories, and Wang's corporate preference for minimalist policies and procedures. “Use your head!’ was the basic message. Most HR policies and procedures today are written with a quite different concept in mind. Eliminate the need for common sense decision making, no need to use your head. We will 'idiot proof’ the policy manual. No need to think. Also, let’s create the proper documentation trail (evidence) in our policies to mitigate potential liability should someone actually mess up.

What does this say about our opinion of the people we are hiring? Are they the ones we need ‘idiot proof’ policies for? And what about the managers and leaders in our organization? What does this approach to policies and procedures say about them?

I have a radical suggestion. Throw it all out and start from a new point of view. Assume the following:

  • We will only hire good, well-intentioned people
  • We will ensure those good people have the requisite competencies
  • We will provide those people with quality
    • Training
    • Leadership
    • Role modeling
    • Information
  • We will have zero tolerance for less than the above in people and in their behavior

The case for hiring and keeping good people and not tolerating the bad actors is strongly made in Ph.D. Robert Sutton’s book ‘The No Asshole Rule’, and by Patrick Lencioni in “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive."  Both are excellent reads.

Now, under that assumption, determine what you need in your policies. As an example, your code of business conduct might simply say

  “We will conduct all business and relationships in a moral, ethical, legal, and mutually beneficial manner. In all cases, we will do the right     thing.”

How about your approach to appearance on the job

  “We will dress in a manner consistent with the level of professionalism we want our customers and co-workers to expect from us.”

The first challenge with this approach is that it requires us to ’trust’ our people to do the right thing and treat each other with respect.

The second challenge is that we will need to focus like a laser on hiring and keeping the right people in our organization. It is the responsibility of leadership to ‘own’ the acquisition and retention of talent for the organization. It requires their best effort. And they should ensure every hiring manager has the same commitment. Anyone who says they don’t have the time to comprehensively vet a candidate is just missing the point entirely.

The role of HR is to source the best possible candidates. HR is not the hiring manager. HR must provide managers and leadership with the tools, training and insight to carry out their responsibility to hire the right people for the culture and the function. There is never an excuse for taking a short cut in the selection process.

To summarize, we are better off with a clearly communicated vision of our desired culture, doing whatever is necessary to hire the right people, and provide simply stated policies only as needed.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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