Are Your Company Policies Holding You Back?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost 20-year career in HR it’s that the world of HR is ever-changing. And while sometimes we all sit back and take a big sigh and think “not again”, it’s a good thing. Change allows us to grow and adapt. But are there policies that we are holding on to because we’ve always done it that way or everyone else is doing it that way? 

In this time of the “Great Resignation”, I find myself thinking about what could be changed to make the biggest impact. Not only in the short-term to get people in the seats, but to keep them there for the long haul. 

Throw out the 40-hour workweek: Henry Ford implemented the 40-hour workweek to give employees a work-life balance that they didn’t have in the 1920s. There were no regulations on working hours, but Ford took a chance, a risk, and did what he knew was right for his employees. One hundred years later, we’re still pushing a 40-hour workweek, even though it’s estimated that the U.S. Labor production has increased by over 300% since 1950. Iceland conducted a study to test out a shortened work week and the results were so powerful that 90% of the workers in Iceland no longer work 40 hours per week. Shorter workweeks have led to happier employees and in many cases an increase in productivity. Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, are following suit. 

While reducing the workweek may not be an option for all organizations, what are some options you could explore? Maybe flexible work schedules, shared shifts, or compressed workweeks. 

Rethink your background checks: A recent study by RAND Corporation shows that by age 35, 64% of unemployed men have a criminal history. This figure doesn’t even account for unemployed women who struggle to find work due to a criminal history. And many of those who struggle to rebuild their lives and find gainful employment don’t have violent histories, they have drug histories. In recent months we’ve been talking the “great resignation” to death, trying to figure out how to keep employees, how to recruit new hires, and what we need to do differently. But rethinking our background check requirements hasn’t been a part of that conversation. Why does your organization conduct background checks? What are your guidelines for what gets past and what gets passed on? Yes, there are industries that have bona fide background requirements, I understand that. But if you’re not one of those industries, does your background check policy really make sense for your organization? Is it helping you or hindering you? Imagine the potential talent you could tap into by making changes to that requirement or doing away with it completely. 

Rethink your benefits program: Why do we create benefits packages that are “one-size-fits-all”? A recent study conducted by Lighthouse Research & Advisory shows that employment priorities are different by age group, with the #1 priority for younger employees being work-life balance, while older employees are focused on finances. How can we as employers create a benefits program that meets all of their needs and wants? Imagine a plan that would allow younger employees to elect extra PTO while older employees could elect a cash incentive. Could creating an al a carte benefit program be the wave of the future? Where employers offer a benefit stipend and employees could pick and choose how they want to use that stipend, and their options include conventional benefits such as health and dental coverage and unconventional benefits such as gym memberships and extra paid leave, or even just a payout? 

These are just a couple of examples of rethinking your company policies using a growth mindset. I challenge you to take a look at your policies, read your Employee Handbook, and ask yourself why your company policies are what they are. Start with your workweek, background, and drug testing policies, benefits, paid leave, and go from there. If the answer you come up with is “we’ve always done it that way” or “it’s similar to what other companies are doing” then you’re focused on a fixed mindset. Ask yourself if there’s a different option that would work better for your organization.

Lorrie Coffey

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