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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Your Company Policies & Procedures Shape Your Company's Culture

Pa and Daughter. Not related to the what? :)

Company policies and procedures and the manner by which they are created and enforced shapes the company's culture.

I'm having difficulty forming a cohesive theme on this article so I just decided to share some fragmented ideas on the topic.

Creation or Co-creation
When policies and procedures are handed down from the top or coursed through HR, it sends a top-down message about how management makes policy decisions. I have learned from experience that this is the fastest way to implement something in a company, it can also be prone to setbacks. Why, because without involving stakeholders in crafting them, there will be likelihood of blind spots and procedures that tend to produce more problems than solutions.  Co-creating policies, getting others involved in writing it can be a lot slower but I have found this strategy to be more effective in getting people to buy-in on the outcome. That's what we need, employees' buy-in and ownership of the company policies and procedures.

Competition or Cooperation
I've been through interesting exchanges regarding rewards system and how it should be designed. I've heard how managers defend the idea of individual merit and friendly competition in the workplace. While I have nothing against the idea of rewarding based on individual merit, I also feel that if good quality work requires people working together in a collaborative and cooperative manner, there should be an incentive for that, taking into mind the idea that what gets rewarded gets repeated. I used the term incentive and reward loosely here. I mean, those things can be monetary or something else.

Your Customer Service Policy Impacts Organizational Learning
I've always been particularly inspired by the error messages that pop out every time my low-tech computer hangs. The question, "do you want to report this problem/issue?" to me, means that the people on the other end of the electronic conversation is encouraging me to complain about their service. While it makes a lot of sense to encourage customers to tell you when there is a need to improve your service, the idea hasn't really caught on. In many companies, specially in the service industry, getting a customer complaint reach management can get somebody's bottom kicked. This is why many front-liners try to contain complaints, solve/appease/cover up as much as they can so they don't get into trouble. I am all for empowering the front line to solve the customers's problems but I think there needs to be a policy or system that encourage employees to record customer feedback put them in a database, look at trends and see opportunities for improvement. If your company has been for the longest time penalizing people due to customer complaints, paradigm shifting will require some serious interventions. I suggest that you take that step to enhance organizational learning and improvement through customer feedback.

Performance Management or Performance Appraisal
What do you have in your company, a performance appraisal system or a performance management system? Yes, there is a difference but what do you really want? I'm betting performance management, but what we normally see are managers complying with the seasonal requirement to appraise people's performance because they are prerequisites for salary review and adjustment. Very few companies introduce a holistic performance management system as a set of tools for managing and improving people's performance. For many managers, these two terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing- a chore that has to be complied with to get HR off their back. This is sad because a well written and executed performance management program can impact not just on individual performance but on the company's organizational culture and overall effectiveness.

Your Training Policy and Individual Accountability for Learning and Change
Many companies don't have training policy and have no way of capitalizing on the new information people acquire through training and seminars attended. Managers send employees to training they themselves are unfamiliar with. Employees go to training with no knowledge of management expectations and many go about their usual work after attending a training that is supposed change the way they do... well, work! No wonder, trainers like me get blamed for the lack of change in behavior after training! (sorry for the rant). Methinks that companies need  to put together a means of maximizing return on training investment. This isn't really hard to do... if you are having difficulty, call me.

Management Ears and Policy Improvement
Some policies and procedures become obsolete and impractical to apply. When there is no channel for people to express the need to change policies, they improvise. They bend the rules or ignore them outright. This isn't a good thing. I've always said that if a policy is not needed, we should throw it out the window. People shouldn't have to gather courage just to tell management that they need to consider changing the company's policy. It should not just be welcomed, it should be encouraged, maybe even rewarded!

That's it, I'm out.

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