Our local NAAAHR chapter recently hosted a terrific panel discussion about managing during these challenging economic times. NAAAHR is a great organization – if you have a chapter near you, check it out. The panelists were from a variety of industries and held both operations and HR positions within their companies.
During the panel discussion, the topic turned to HR and what professionals can do to be more effective. I must admit I didn’t hear a lot of new information. The conversation centered around technology, business acumen, bringing value, and taking control of your professional development.
But, one person did make a comment that stuck with me. She said human resources policies and procedures were jokingly referred to as “The Book of No”. As in, here are all the things you can’t do within the organization.
The comment made me realize this could be a real defining moment for not only human resources pros but managers in general. Can we talk about things in terms of what people “can” do versus what people “can’t” do? I mean, it’s easy to talk about what you can’t do. But, it takes creativity to talk about what you can do. You really have to think about all of the possibilities. You have to consider ‘out of the box’ thought processes.
And…if we start talking in terms of what people can do, then shouldn’t our written organizational policies and procedures reflect the same? I’ve heard many people say they subscribe to the “explain what you can do” philosophy but when you read their SOP manuals and employee handbooks, it’s one long “let me tell you what you can’t do.”
Policies, procedures, handbooks, etc. should be considered marketing documents. Most of the time, there’s nothing confidential or proprietary in them. They’re simply the rules of the road…and having rules is perfectly normal. But, write them from a “can do” standpoint. Send the message that working for your organization is about lifting employees up and supporting their actions . . . not holding them back.0
Wally Bock says
Book of “No,” huh? You reminded me that the people at one of my clients used to call their policy manual the “Gotcha Book.” You can guess why.
Steve Boese says
This reminds me of the old line about rules; that all they do is give employees a reason to say ‘No’ to the customer. I agree though, HR is usually pretty good at writing up all the myriad ways employees can get in trouble, and not so great sometimes at helping them be great.
For some reason, what this brings to mind is a situation that happened early in my Army career. The military organization that I belonged to at the time was a large one, now know as Human Resources Command or HRC (in the early 80s, it was called the MILPERCEN – Military Personnel Center) in Alexandria, VA. Semi-annually they had a day known as the River Run which was essentially an organizational day/picnic centered around a running theme with relay races, a 10K race and a 10K “fun run.” In those days (1983-84) military organizational days usually included beer, and they used to bring a beer truck to the site.
There was a discussion in my office about whether or not a particular activity would be allowed. I offered to go ask (young soldier that I was who had grown up in a pretty authoritarian environment before the Army). I will never forget being told by ALL the senior people in my office not to ask. The basic message was, “Asking permission gives someone an excuse to tell you NO, and why bring up a possible restriction that they haven’t thought of creating yet,” also known as “It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” I have long since forgotten what the activity was – but the message has stayed with me ever since.
Jody Skinner says
I want to be optimistic and say that HR started with the “can’ts” because the list was supposedly shorter…