Outdated Office Policies that are Hurting Employee Retention

“It’s always been that way” isn’t something that we, in Human Resources strive for.  No one wants to be dull and non-innovative.  But then, how would the “way it always was” interfere with our own forward movement?

These habits and culture traits are ingrained within every day life at the office and feel so natural we almost don’t think about changing them.  It’s not until we start making small modifications to a policy or idea that we even start to say… wait… why do we have this form in the first place?

What would happen if we spent more time during the day challenging our own processes?

It’s time to start looking at “standard” policies/rules and say – why was this here in the first place and is it necessary today?



You’re kidding me right? Your company phone policy says “personal mobile phone only allowed at break times” or “keep in desk” or “limited use”.  I can see perhaps at the dawn of mobile phones, which really wasn’t too long ago becoming a new change in work culture.  Employees had an office line, but also a personal line…AT WORK! (God forbid).

Now-a-days, we know better than to think people aren’t actually going to abide by this rule (unless of course we’re talking about working in a warehouse, operating in a call center, etc.) Let’s be honest, how many times do YOU use your phone at work?  Text your daughter to make sure she got home from school okay, texted your spouse to add something to the grocery list… these are things we hardly even think about anymore.  They’re also not taking away from our productivity at work.  Heck, if I was worried if my daughter was home from school safe I wouldn’t exactly be focused on what I was doing anyways!

Handing your salaried employees a handbook that includes a cell phone use policy that restricts personal use is a downright joke and insulting to them.  And what does it say about our policies as a whole if we write it off by saying “oh, that one we can kind of let slide”. You might have just taken an optimistic new hire and made them second guess their decision even this early on day one.  Don’t underestimate my sincerity here.


It makes me cringe to think I even think to write this down but it was only 3 years ago I was working for a company that still implemented this.  If you think that restricting Facebook usage to only your “social media” team is going to keep your employees “better spending their time” than think again.  You know they have Facebook on their phones, right? And that they are using their phones no matter what the rule is, right? Let’s all be adults and if Facebook and other social sites are too much of a distraction for your employees, than the decision is easy – you don’t want that employee working for you.

3. Tardiness & Time (for salaried employees)

I had the pleasure (sarcasm) of working for a company  that required all employees to wear ID badges.  No big deal, not uncommon.  OUR ID badges, however, were specifically to clock time.  They did not open a door, get you through security or into secret locked rooms.  I’m telling you that even the Vice President of Human Resources was required to calculate his time for CEO review and approval.  Biweekly my boss, the Directer of Org Development looked at my time card, as a salaried employee and “approved” the hours I logged.

I realize this is an extreme case but I’ve also worked at super forward-thinking start-ups where a dirty glare or ridiculous excuses were the ‘culture of tardiness’.  Look, life happens, traffic sometimes really IS bad, sometimes your kid vomited on your skirt before you walked out the door, or maybe you did just truly take your sweet time on the way to work today.

From both an HR and Managerial perspective, if tardiness is an issue with an employee it is certainly something that needs to be addressed. But, when one of your top performers walks in at 9:37am flushed with embarrassment, let’s all just remember tomorrow might be YOUR day.  You both probably put in 52 hours this week anyways, GET OVER IT.

Also… same goes for lunch…. girl’s gotta eat!

 4. salary increases by percentage


As a very mature 24-year-old I had been in the working world longer than other “kids” my age after graduating college younger than peers in my grade.  Most HR Pros would say “age doesn’t matter” but no matter how I did my hair, how classy I dressed or even how professionally spoke I was still the youngest person at the [mid-sized catalog retail company] to become manager in company history.

Before my promotion I had a very fair entry-level salary in my bilingual training position.  I coordinated all company training, developed content and facilitated trainings for audiences ranging from management to the Spanish-speaking 3rd shift.  My contributions to the organization grew as I developed a Wellness Committee, won Employee of the Year, helped with recruitment and developed and implemented a new Onboarding program. I was surely stretching my young wings.

With a senior HR Manager stepping out of her position to another opportunity there was new room on the HR Management team.  My super open-minded boss (you’re always most successful with a great boss) helped me create an entirely new position to fill this “slot”.  We, as an HR team would restructure the department, eliminate her position and add “mine”: Manager of Employee Engagement.  I would take on her entire team of staff: one direct report and her team of 6.  I had responsibility for Onboarding, Engagement, Organizational Development (after my boss then shortly left) Training & Development, Employee Events (with my direct report) and the 2 on site employee stores (additional team of 6).  This might sound like a big responsibility for a 24-year-old at a moderately large company, but I was essentially molded for the job.

Months of planning, preparation and org structure changes passed by before I actually stepped into the new roll and was finally “quoted’ the salary of my new position.  My boss walked into my office.  He had a piece of paper and a strange look on his face.  He offered me the job as Manager, Employee Engagement (after building it with me for 8 months) and told me the salary.  I was speechless.  My eyes welled up (super unprofessional).  I gathered myself before speaking and said the most professional words I had spoken yet in my young career: “[Boss}, that offer is extremely offensive and unfortunately I’ll have to turn down the position”.

THE OFFER WAS A JOKE. (Not my bosses fault… this came from “high-up”).

My company had offered me an 8% raise on my small entry-level salary.

My decline of the offer lead to a one-on-one meeting with the CEO.  “Why don’t you want the position?” He asked me. He didn’t understand.  I had spent months creating the position.  Boldly, I told the CEO his offer was insulting to my contribution at the organization and that an 8% increase on an entry-level employee salary was not appropriate for all of my new responsibilities.  (It would cost him twice my offer to bring in someone new) … not to mention, how would I get through my employee evaluations knowing that my direct report was making significantly more than me because she had been with the company since my brother was born.

Our discussion encouraged him to counter his initial offer: an 11% raise.  I wasn’t looking for a RAISE I told him, I was being offered a NEW JOB!

That was the best he could do.  The most he had ever offered anyone in company history was 9%.  He was surely bending the rules for my bright young talent.

I took the deal.

I was smarter to know that a managerial position on my short resume was the most valuable part of this deal to me.  I’m sure you can guess what that did to my engagement.  Ironic with my new job title, no?  I was there long enough to add the title to my resume and to find another place I could feel valued.

Value performance over time, contribution over tenure and always always, use merit to guide the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *