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Are Your Best Practices Making Things Worse?

Managers may call them "best practices," but employees see them as annoying hindrances to good work and desire autonomy instead.
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"Best practices," as a term, should speak for itself. These rules, procedures and guidelines for how things get done have, obviously, the goal of streamlining and improving work. Otherwise they wouldn't be best, right?

But it turns out there's a chasm between how managers, executives, and business owners think of these helpful suggestions from the top and how front-line employees view them. They may be best from management's perspective, but ordinary employees, it seems, often beg to disagree. A new survey of 800 execs, employees, and educators from across a range of industries carried out by communication training company Fierce uncovered resentment and annoyance over so-called "best practices." The survey found:

  • 44 percent of respondents say their company's best practices actually hinder employee productivity and morale
  • 47 percent report that their organization’s current practices consistently get in the way of desired results, rather than optimize the success of the business

In short, you as the boss might just want to be helpful and supportive by offering up these best practices, but nearly half the time your employees feel they know how to do their jobs better than you and feel held back by your dictates. But, you might ask, if they don't want to be guided by best practices (or restricted by them, depending on your point of view), how do they want to be managed?

"Nearly half of survey respondents identified the most beneficial practices as those that encouraged accountability, development, and individual empowerment within the organization," according to Fierce. "Companies must foster an environment where individual efficacy is encouraged and where communication is both elicited and valued." Or to put it in everyday English, your employees want to be trusted to do their jobs properly and empowered to make decisions about how to be successful.

They also want transparency, according to the survey. Seventy percent of respondents told pollsters that if they felt a practice needed to be adjusted, they would candidly approach decision-makers within their organization if they felt their views would be welcomed and the company was willing to change these practices. But sadly, only a third of those who said they'd come forward felt their company would actually listen to them.

Fierce feels not providing the autonomy, empowerment, development and transparent organization your employees want can cost you. “These widely accepted practices are not only ineffective, they are costing our companies billions of dollars, driving away our most valuable employees and customers, limiting performance, and stalling careers,” said Halley Bock, CEO of Fierce, Inc. “This survey should encourage managers to question the practices in place.”

So, do any of your so-called best practices need a rethink?

Last updated: Feb 14, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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