Editor’s letter: Could you survive without any HR policies?

Could you manage your organisation purely based on its culture, without a single HR policy?

This week a question came to me that effectively asked just that.

The question was: “In a world of trust and inclusiveness – do we still need HR policy?”

Now the quick and easy answer is “yes, of course we do”.

But is that being a bit too glib?

I appreciate there will always be a need for people policies through legal necessity from governments and other authorities: employees (not to mention employers, customers and the general public) deserve the right to be protected when things go wrong.

However, is that something which it is all too easy to fall back on?

So many HR policies come purely from the “what if it goes wrong” school of thought.

Ebay VP HR International Tom Brown believes HR teams make too many unnecessary rules.

“We love policies. If we can make a policy we will make a policy, irrespective of the outcome,” he told the European HR Directors Summit.

“And we tend to give out what could go wrong, rather than what could go right. We have got to trust our managers and our employees.”

One of the policies that particularly disappointed Brown was on prescribing the amount of compassionate leave an employee was allowed and to which family members it applied.

“When we read this stuff we wonder why people hate HR – I mean I hate reading it. We make it really difficult and I get deeply frustrated,” he said.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the belief and trust in employees and the culture of the workforce community was strong enough that these and many more policies were unnecessary?

Is it possible to grow an organisation’s culture to be that strong?

Or am I being naïve and simply unrealistic?

It can be difficult enough to bring together organisations of just a few hundred people based in one location.

With workforces numbering the thousands and spread across many sites I suspect this task would be many magnitudes harder.

But what if we dare to dream? Could it be possible?

I certainly hope it is – and hope, in my view, is a good thing.

 

I’d love to hear your views on this.

Is it something that can be a working goal or is it just too big a risk?

Join in the debate on Twitter, Linkedin or use the comments section below.

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