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If You Have to Make an HR Task Mandatory, You're Already Failing

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Apr 17, 2019 at 12:49AM

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Here’s the “rule breaker” solution to getting employees to buy in and step up.

The human resources department can play a key role in helping define a company's culture. Taking their cues from the top executives, they're going to devise policies, disseminating ideas, creating and enforcing standards of conduct that, if effective, can set the tone in a workplace. But often, there's a disconnect between the goals and policies, and the results that HR teams are hoping to achieve. If you think that's a problem where you work, it may be time for some inspired rule breaking -- which, as it happens, is a specialty of Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner. His company consistently earns "best workplace" accolades, so it's fair to assume he and his team have figured a few things out on this front.

In this episode of his Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David invited Motley Fool people team all-stars Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers on to talk about 10 ways this company's workplace culture breaks the rules -- and yours should, too. In this segment, they ask managers to recognize something important: "If you have to make it mandatory, then it's not compelling." As they explain, there are a number of ways to address that, but all of them require being willing to rethink the ruts your organization has fallen into.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on April 10, 2019.

David Gardner: Let's get started with No. 1.

Lee Burbage: That's me. I have the joy of kicking off today. It's a great phrase that Karen and I love. It's called, "if you have to make it mandatory, then it's not compelling." We love to run everything that we're doing through this phrase. If you're a traditional HR person or manager out there in the world and you find a part of your job is chasing people down and trying to make them do things, it turns out, that's not very fun. And you can blame them for not doing their homework; or you could look at whatever you're trying to get them to do and think, "Why aren't they doing it?" It's probably because it's not compelling.

If Karen and I are out there in the world, and we're trying to get people, let's say, to fill out performance appraisals, or you have to submit this form, and the people aren't doing it, you probably need to redo your process or system to make it something that they look forward to doing. We look for things that are compelling, not mandatory.

Gardner: Karen, Lee, can you give an example of what people felt like they had to do? Maybe a place they needed to be or something they needed to do, and you remapped it?

Burbage: Performance appraisals is a great example of that. We've seen a lot of companies joining the bandwagon here to stop doing performance appraisals. It turns out, no one likes to do them! The manager doesn't like it, the employee doesn't like it. Those things are easy for us. They'll write songs about you in HR if you stop doing something that nobody wants to do anyway and reinvent it in a new way that causes people to want to participate.

Gardner: Yeah, they'll say things like long live Dorothy, the Wicked Witch is dead. We're definitely looking to kill the Wicked Witch -- even though, as a Wicked fan, I also appreciate the Wicked Witch. Another part of me loves the Wicked Witch. But, yeah, that's a great example! Maybe the best of all. In almost every workplace, whether you're at a university or an early stage start-up or a longtime not for profit charity, probably somebody thinks we need to do performance appraisals.

Before we move on to No. 2, could you briefly explain what we do now in terms of getting some appraisal of your performance? How does it actually work here at the Fool?

Burbage: Sure. We have a system that we call signals, Karen and I, that we've developed over many years. It's definitely not perfect yet, but we try to create touch points where people are having meaningful conversations. Those conversations are with their boss, with their peers, and with a coach that they choose. So instead of ratings and filling out forms, we push more toward a meaningful conversation.

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