Why we need to put an end to disengaging HR practices, now!

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Let me ask you a question? Why do we design our HR policies and practices in such a disengaging way? A way that either intentionally or by chance pisses our employees off? This thought sprung to mind the other day after hearing my friend tell me about what she had to endure with her company’s performance management system. And yet again, I asked myself – why?


What happened was that at about 3:00 pm on a Friday afternoon my friend, let’s call her Sue, was told by her boss that she had to put her goals into the system, so her boss could  sign off on her annual performance goals by the end of the day. Fine, in most situations this would have been a challenge, but not insurmountable. But since Sue had just started working for her new boss, this was difficult as they hadn’t yet had a chance to speak about her goals, let alone agree on them.

So what did they do? They made up bogus goals since they had no other choice since HR told them that it had to be done. These goals read more like the fine print at the bottom of a dense legal contract.  There’s no way a human could benefit from having 48 separate individual goals. Who are these goals for, anyway?

As an HR person, hearing this story both embarrassed and infuriated me! It embarrassed me, because I know that in my past I’m sure I’ve done the same thing to my managers and employees because a deadline is a deadline, right? But as I’ve entered into my rebel phase, where I question and challenge these traditional processes, it infuriates me that we let a silly deadline create such a senseless, wasteful and disengaging situation for our employees.


Unfortunately, the story got even worse, for the second part of Sue’s problem was maneuvering within the performance management system to do her part of the process.

She found many pages of justification, explanation about how the information will be used, and even videos to persuade her to use it, but no link to the performance management system itself.  She spent hours trying to find instructions, or contact someone in HR, or even her boss, but the clock kept ticking.

And when she was finally given the instructions, she encountered problem after problem as the system wasn’t able to handle the different computers that their employees would be using, making the assumption that everyone would be working off of a Windows computer.


As an HR person, again this both embarrasses and infuriates me. Why? Well if this had been a product that we were selling to our customers we would have tested it to make sure that there was a positive user experience. Why hadn’t the same been done by her HR team? Why hadn’t they made sure that there were no bugs, no hurdles getting in the way, and made sure that it was an easy and seamless process?


This process was intended to encourage, motivate and grow employees.  As delivered it was clearly just a tick-box solution which drives employees to distraction and makes them feel worthless and unappreciated, a ripe target for the recruiters calling them on a daily basis. And, as Sue said to me, “It created angst for nothing!”


As an HR community, if we ever want to improve engagement, which as we all know is atrociously low, then we need to start by taking a cold hard look at our practices and processes. Ask ourselves, who are they really designed for? Ask ourselves, do they show our employees that we care? If they don’t, then scrap them and start all over again!!


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