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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Best Practices?

In most of the HR positions that I've held in the past, I felt forced to follow what some believed were "best practices," but I don't really think that some of those practices were best for the organization at all.

HR is one of those fields where it's hard to tell which practice is actually best for your organization. Companies vary dramatically based on their company culture, industry, geographical location, size, organizational structure and a host of other characteristics. So, basically, my thought is that a best practice for your organization is one that meets the following criteria:
  • It shows respect for each individual
  • It is legal
  • It exemplifies the core values of your organization
  • It differentiates you from your competitors - or at the very least, allows you to be competitive
  • It makes business sense for your organization

But, everyone else is doing it!

Ironically, your biggest challenge to figuring out what the best practice for your organization is going to be will probably be your CEO. Why? Because CEO's usually like to read - a lot. They like to talk to their other CEO friends - a lot. And, they want to be just like the most powerful CEOs whom they respect. So, if one of these CEOs talks about something that their organization has done that has turned out for the best, then it must be the way to go! So, what is an HR person to do? After all, it's your CEO. You have to do what (s)he says, right? Well...maybe...

First, tell him or her that the idea is interesting and you'd like to think about it. Then, put on your thinking cap and apply the criteria above. If his idea makes sense, then start figuring out an action plan with a reasonable timeline to present back to him. If it doesn't make sense after applying this criteria, for example, it violates one of the company's core values or will not generate a return on investment from a business perspective, then start figuring out a plan of action with a reasonable timeline to present back to him. What? Wait a minute? Is that a typo?

No, it's not a typo. You just need to find a way to make something happen that reasonably represents the "spirit" of what he was attempting to achieve. Of course, you need to present your improvement to his idea as a version of his own, clearly show how the benefits will reflect positively on him, and succinctly lay out the action plan. Remember - he doesn't care about the details, only the results.

I once had a CEO who was so upset how the women in our Northern Virginia and D.C. offices were dressing in the summer, that she wanted to implement a policy mandating panty hose. For some reason, she thought that mandating panty hose would solve the problem of these women not dressing conservatively enough for our D.C. Metro government contracting business. I can assure you that panty hose was not the answer. These particular women needed a lot of guidance and even if wearing panty hose, would still be wearing tops that were cut too low, skirts that were too short and showing their undergarments. So, I created a powerpoint presentation about appropriate and inappropriate office attire and distributed it to everyone - male and female. Panty hose were not a necessity (thank goodness, it gets hot here in the summer) but the other requirements of professional office attire were not only spelled out, but pictures provided a clear look at what was appropriate and what was not. Although, this is not the answer for every organization when it comes to dress code - it worked for that company. It just took a little inspiration (provided by a Victoria's Secret catalog that I got in the mail) to come up with an idea that worked.

My current company has no dress code and I wouldn't even think of trying the same thing there. However, we're in a very different industry than the one mentioned above.

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