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Are Your “Best Practices” a Nightmare for Employees? 3 Tips for Improvement

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We wanted to share with you former Fierce CEO, Halley Bock's most recent article, exploring "best practices" and how to improve them.  It was first published on Ragan's HR Communication's website.

It’s common practice in the corporate world to create “best practices” as a means to improve results. Organizations across the globe do this in order to achieve faster production, higher profit margins, and stronger employee engagement scores. You name the issue/metric/need, and there’s likely a “best practice” existing to ensure we are all bringing our best to the table. The problem: Organizations rarely assess how these so-called “best practices” are contributing (or not) to long-term success.

In a recent survey my company conducted, we polled some 800 corporate executives, employees, and educators across an array of sectors to measure how organizational practices were impacting the workplace. The results were far from stellar.

The research revealed:

• 44 percent of respondents reported that their organization’s practices hinder employee productivity and morale.

• 47 percent said their organization’s practices consistently get in the way of desired results. The biggest offenders: Lack of transparency and top-down leadership where decisions occur behind closed doors.

Certainly not the results leadership envisions when adopting a new practice. So what gives?

Here are three steps to ensure your “best practices” are just that — the BEST.

1. Define. Organizational practices often come about in two ways. They may have germinated from a particular leader’s philosophy, value system, or style and, over time, have become institutional practices that are accepted by default. Or they are brought on board because they worked at Company X, Y, and Z and have become widely accepted in the workforce.

Looking to industry standards for guideposts can be beneficial, but your organization is unique and should be treated as such. As a leader, be intentional with each practice you bring into the organization and clearly define what it is, why it is in place, and the results you expect. Also, take inventory of your current practices and be prepared to toss them out if you can’t fully justify their worth.

2. Refine. Once you have a defined purpose and intent, introduce the practice to a larger circle of corporate citizens — gathering perspectives from diverse points of view. In this way, one can check perception with reality to ensure the intention is fully realized. If refinement is needed, do so. And when resonance is achieved, roll it out purposefully.

3. Evaluate. Here is where we typically fail. What was once introduced as our new, favorite stroke of brilliance is often discarded into the bin of forgotten stepchildren where, perhaps, our mission statement and corporate values languish, too. It’s a sad sight. And rather than dust off our wares, we allow an excessive amount of time to pass. Subsequently, we would rather toss them out and begin again from scratch — with the hottest new facilitator, of course.

I propose that you choose a different course and revisit your practices periodically throughout the year. This is done by going back to the “what”, “why”, and “results” that you defined in Step No. 1.

Poll your employees, discuss in meetings, whatever your method — just ensure that the conversation is ongoing.

At the end of the day, there are few things worse than a “best practice” gone badly in the workplace


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