February 06, 2020

Three common workplace practices that People leaders need to #cancel immediately

The People space is more innovative than it’s often given credit for. Even so, some norms have more than outstayed their welcome. At the start of this new decade, we’re looking for opportunities to kick harmful norms to the curb, leaving room for more positive cultures.

If you’re not sure where to start, we have some ideas. These three things have been part of life at work for long enough—let’s put an end to them in 2020.

1. Hiring for “culture fit”

It sounds like a harmless concept: you want to hire people who are going to fit in and thrive on your team. You don’t want drama in the workplace, so let’s find people who can get along. This common intention behind “culture fit” is understandable, but in practice, it has some dire consequences. 

“Culture fit” impedes diversity 

When we’re looking for like-minded folks with personalities who mesh, it often creates a team where everyone looks and thinks alike. Diversity and inclusion suffer immensely—we’ve all seen suspiciously homogenous team photos on company websites. Hiring for culture fit also discourages bringing on people who might disrupt the status quo. It makes sense to want your team to get along, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of other viewpoints. A company can’t innovate, scale, or succeed if everyone in the room has the same ideas and experiences. 

Hiring for value add fosters diversity, innovation, and productivity. 

A better approach is to seek “value add” in your hiring process. You want people who can work effectively with your existing team while also bringing something new and exciting to the table. This encourages your hiring managers to build a diverse team that can take your company to the next level. 

Read: 10 actionable tips for diversity and inclusion

2. Weight loss-based “wellness” programs

Workplace wellness programs are an $8-billion-a-year industry. Employers want to help their team live happier, healthier lives. But when those programs are built around weight loss, they can damage morale, and don’t actually improve employee health. 

For employees who have struggled with body image and weight, the pressure to join the program can be uncomfortable and intense. For others, perks tied to weight loss can encourage unhealthy behaviors. Health and wellness are more complicated than a number on a scale.

Couple this with the fact that no study has ever proven these programs are effective, and it just doesn’t make sense to keep them around. But that doesn’t mean all wellness programs are bad! Here are some other options you can explore for your team: 

  • Fitness perks not tied to the scale. You can provide reimbursements for activities and gym memberships, or get your staff access to online tools that help them understand their health.
  • Healthy break rooms. You can invest in healthy snacks and lunches that give your employees choices and will save them some cash. 
  • Community involvement. You can make donations, grant PTO, or provide bonuses to staff who volunteer—which improves mental and physical health. 
  • More body-positive wellness challenges. You can encourage team activities like joining a fundraising walk as a group, or a contest to drink more water. 
  • Mental health resources. You can provide Employee Assistance Programs and other resources that support their mental health confidentially. 

3. “Mandatory” Happy Hour

Many managers want their teams to feel like a family. When this translates into socializing after work, it inevitably makes people feel pressured, left out, or overwhelmed.

This includes people who: don’t drink, are struggling financially, have family obligations, have a long commute, are introverts… and so on. Telling your team they don’t have to come doesn’t really work—they feel guilty and fear falling out of favor with their manager. In the end, these events feel mandatory even when they’re not.

What we’ve learned from our session data is that real community happens at work, not after it. Employees who mention feeling a sense of community in their workplace tend to do so in terms of the work itself, like:

“We collaborate so well together; it feels like a family”

“Everyone has each other’s back.”

In contrast, employees who struggle with a sense of belonging frequently allude to alcohol:

“I feel excluded from company outings because I don’t drink.”

“The party culture at work makes it hard to really get to know anyone.”

To really improve workplace camaraderie, focus on improving communication and teamwork during work hours and let your team have their evenings back. 

Read: In pursuit of the perfect employee experience: Why it doesn’t mean what you think it does

What else are you canceling at your company in 2020? Share with us on social media @workbravely.

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