Dust Off Outdated Hiring Practices and Throw Them Away

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Medieval alchemist blowing dust off the old books in her laboratory Mad Men, the popular AMC series, returns later this year for its seventh season about the advertising business in the 1960s. The show has had a major impact as it takes viewers back to the days of three-martini lunches and smoking in offices. One HR expert, though, wants to make sure companies no longer embrace some of the personnel practices one might find by watching the show.

Liz Ryan, in a Forbes.com article called Ten Mad Men-Era HR Practices To Ditch In 2014, describes herself as being in the HR business “since Cyndi Lauper ruled the airwaves,” which would be the mid-80s for the younger readers.

“When you reflect on our obsession with everything shiny and new in the business world, it’s astonishing to realize how many crusty, antiquated HR practices are still in place at large and small organizations across the U.S. and abroad,” Ryan wrote.

Here is a look at five of the 10 ideas that Ryan put forth. Some are more modern than the Mad Men era, yet they are still worth including. As the author noted, ridding your workplace of these practices has two benefits: workers don’t leave and potential hires find your place of business more appealing for employment.

Forced Ranking

Ryan says this is alternatively called Stack Ranking in case your organization does it by another name. “If your organization is still telling Audrey she’s two steps ahead of Sam and one behind Sanjeev, you’ve already lost the talent wars. Nuke this idiotic practice in 2014 and let it languish in the archive of profitability-killing management practices where it belongs,” she said.

Bell Curve Performance Reviews

“Some out-of-the-loop employers still use a type of performance review that requires managers to limit their top performers to a certain number or percentage of employees,” Ryan wrote. “When you build into your rubric the idea that most employees suck at their jobs, don’t expect anything exciting to happen for your customers or shareholders.”

Stitch-Level Dress Code Policies

Of course, it was simpler in the ’60s when men wore suits and women wore dresses to work. There was no need for a dress code except maybe at IBM which decreed only white shirts. Ryan noted, “Don’t insult your teammates with ‘stitch-level’ dress codes that list every detail of the apparel choices your otherwise-capable employees get to make.”

Black Hole Recruiting

Again, this is more a nod to the ’80s than ’60s, but Ryan said it should go. “Sharp employers are ditching their Black Hole processes for human-voiced recruiting systems that attract employees the same way they do customers — by making it easy and inviting to take the first step,” she said.

Progressive Discipline

Maybe some will disagree with Ryan on this point because of the need to document why an employee was dismissed. However, she said, “If someone screws up on the job, sit down and have a conversation about expectations on both sides. Progressive discipline (a la the First Verbal Warning, Second Verbal Warning, Written Warning and Get the Hell Out Notice) is not appropriate for adults.”

Ryan also touches on the issues of stealing airline miles (let employees keep them); death notices (trust your employees); doctor’s notes (the trust thing again); anti-moonlighting policy (outside jobs can make workers better); and time-off policies (let employees take what they want and they won’t abuse time off).

Ryan’s piece dovetails nicely with another she wrote called “10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent.” She continues to dislike the “black hole” recruiting portals and advises that recruiters should be more upbeat and less robotic when recruiting new employees into an organization.

By Keith Griffin