Employer Policies

by | March 6, 2013

We have previously shared with you the importance of formal employer policies.  We highlighted why formalizing your processes and communicating them to employees enhanced the work environment by setting clear expectations for employees and putting everyone on equal footing.

Now, we’re going to turn that advice a bit on its head.As much as it is important to formalize processes, it’s equally important to recognize that all employees are not created equally and that each employee’s needs from the workplace are different.  The workplace expectations of a 20-something year old employee are different than those of a 50-something year old.  Their differences range broadly from performance feedback to social impact to compensation.  So, given these significant differences among employees, how are you to implement consistent policies that encourage individual employees to perform at the highest level on behalf of the company?

One key factor is to consider the goals of any policy.  The policy’s objective and impact should align with the company’s values and culture.  This means that anyone in the company can understand why that policy is important for the success of the business.   Employees perform at their best when they are engaged with the workplace and feel valued by the company.  The policies must not exist simply for the sake of structure – these don’t provide any engagement.  Rather, the employees must understand the reason for the policy and how it helps the business (and themselves) develop.  In the current workplace, policies must also complement one another so that there’s give-and-take – the employee expects that he or she is not only giving to the company but getting some value from the company as well.   Training and continuing education policies are good examples.   Similarly, a connection with the community has become more important for younger employees.  You must consider what your current and future workforce needs for engagement and implement policies that allow you to provide for these needs.

Another important element is that the policy should not be so tailored to a specific behavior so much as drive incentives that make sense for the company.   The policy should allow the company some flexibility in implementation.  A great example of this is performance reviews.  If a policy specifies that each employee will have two annual performance reviews with the employee’s manager and that the result of the performance review will determine salary increases and bonuses, the company and each manager is bound to have a twice-yearly meeting to evaluate performance for each employee.   This system may provide performance incentives for some employees, but it will not have any performance incentives for others.  In this case, the company’s goal is to drive certain behaviors through performance reviews and monetary compensation – a very traditional approach.  However, studies show that this model doesn’t produce results in many employee groups.  The company needs a program that focuses on an employee’s growth plan and goals along with metrics but can implement it differently across employees.

As the workforce spans a greater number of generations, the need for more personalized attention to the individual employee increases.   Personalization, however, does not eliminate formality or structure – formal policies are still required and important for an efficient and organized workplace.  Formal policies can be implemented to in an individualized manner to engage and drive loyalty among employees.  Do not mistake a policy for a one-size-fits-all approach, but consider how you can leverage your policies to incentivize your employees to perform at their peak.