Which HR policies would you throw into HRroom101?

BrightHR recently hosted a Room 101 session alongside HR Magazine. We call it... HRroom101

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the idea is to hypothetically plead your case to banish pet hates forever. In our case we asked some of the HR industry’s top North West professionals to discuss HR policies in place within their current workplace and experienced in their careers, which were just too far, either in requirement or regulation.

In an open discussion, each attendee pitched which policy they’d like to see banished in to HRroom101 to the rest of the group to then be discussed.

The policies talked about covered a wide range of HR issues, from policies for major events and flexible working, to unequal benefits systems and dress codes.

As polices were submitted, key themes started to emerge. The main of which were trust, empowerment and ‘agile adult working’. But what is agile adult working? Trust and empowerment certainly made up a large part of this notion, with maybe ‘adaptability’ not being said out loud.

Our HR Directors very much put forward the idea that policies are implemented for a number of reasons. Legal and compliance requirements are necessary, but the policies that sit outside this remit need to encourage more of a common sense approach. Think about whether the policy is necessary and what it is saying about the company to its employees.

The majority of suggestions to HRroom101 were born out of knee jerk reactions, protection from employees or just sheer ignorance to the negative impact the policy could have. These may well protect the company from a whole host of potential disputes, however an abundance of policies can create a ‘policing’ environment. A thought that wasn’t lost on our very own Co-founder & CMO Paul Harris who wanted policies that closely manage employee time to be binned. "Policing your employees just covers for lazy managers and poor leadership. You should be finding ways to trust and empower your people, not surround them with policy and regulations to disempower them. They will stop caring if you keep treating them like kids."

This opinion rang true for many of the attendees. CEO of Croner Group, Alan Price, talked about restrictive covenants. These are restrictions put in place that protect a businesses’ strategic information, client base, technologies etc. when an employee leaves the business, preventing this information getting into competitors hands. As a policy, employees come into contact with it from employment contract acceptance and can set the tone of the employment.

Alan said that, the worst restrictive covenant he had ever seen was when he was helping a client who ran a hairdressing salon. "In short, their contract warned that they could never work for another hairdresser for the rest of their life." he recommended that trust and common sense should replace such clauses. You want to be investing in your people and helping them to grow and share what they have learned.”

Trust and empowerment are key to ensuring your workforce remains happy and engaged, and one of the key ways to enable this is to treat your employees like adults i.e. understand that employees can make sensible decisions based on common sense if there is a culture of trust and empowerment to back it up. They can make big decisions daily that affect the progression and development of the business, so why establish policies that look to stifle that empowerment?

This was picked up by Inji Duducu, people director of reward and employee services for Morrisons Supermarkets, who talked about banishing dress codes to HRroom101. "We trust our employees with important decisions every day, but some organisations can't even trust that their people will be able to dress themselves properly without a policy. If your employees can't get dressed properly in the morning then your business has bigger problems than your dress code anyway."

There was also a call to keep policies relevant and up to date. Policies are only representative of the time period they are written and reflect a certain set of standards practiced at that time. But, as the business grows and develops along with the working world in general, policies need to reflect the changing environment. For example, it is a lot more common place to see companies that have a more relaxed dress code. Tech companies such as Google and Facebook have created cultures where employees can wear what makes them feel comfortable to do their job, placing trust in them to make the right decision.

After a cathartic session for our HRDs, agile adult working then, is a combination of enabling employees to make decisions for themselves based around an environment of trust that is open to adapting to change. If this is in place, then employees can continue to grow and develop, which in turn will create a positive and engaged workforce.