The quickest way to have your procedures undermined is to fall short on accountability. Witout ramifications for not following the procedure, you are headed for failure. The people following the procedure will quickly become irritated when others just keep doing things the old way … and the people doing things the old way will just, keep doing things the old way.
When you don’t enforce procedures, your credibility is undermined and your best employees are justifiably miffed.
Can we agree that’s a scary place to be?
This post is the last in a series that covers guidelines for implementing procedures that work. We’ve covered eliciting input from employees, emphasizing communication, making it real with documentation and training. and automating enforcement. This last guideline is about making sure you consistently require adherence to the procedure.
Stick to your guns: Create consequences and consistently enforce them.
We plan consequences for non-compliance early in the process of creating the procedure itself. Much like documentation, consequences are sometimes thought of too little and too late. If we don’t address them up front, we risk rushing them or, at worst, having to implement them after the procedure has already been rolled out. When we discuss consequences, we keep a couple key things in mind.
1. Identify at least one “warning” point.
When thinking about consequences, we try not to think of them as punishment. Instead, we consider them to be a way to make success as likely as possible. In that vein, we create a warning point or notification before any true consequence is enforced. Perhaps a 5% non-compliance rate in this particular process is cause for concern. When an employee hits that point, we can send them a notification so they can self-adjust. We know that our employees want to do a good job and may just need a reminder or a heads up that they’re missing the mark.
2. Avoid creating shame.
If we pass the warning phase and we need further intervention, we make sure to avoid any consequence that could create shame. We know that this type of consequence does NOT motivate change but rather embarrasses the employee and can hurt performance. For example, if the employee continues to hit the 5% non-compliance rate after the warning, we may send them a notification with their manager copied, asking the manager to set up a short meeting to discuss ways to improve. We would NOT send out a group report to all employees that calls out certain employees for non-compliance. Again, shame is not a good motivator and it can adversely affect all of your employees to see this tactic being used.
In summary, we plan early in the process for automating compliance checks and then create consistent consequences for non-compliance. With these two steps you ensure the best chance for successful adoption and fair treatment of all of your employees.
Have you ever found yourself with frustrated employees due to unequal enforcement of a procedure? Do you have any lessons learned to share? We’d love your input in the comments.