. Forced Ranking
The idea behind forced ranking is that when you evaluate your employees against one another, you'll see who's most critical on the team and who's most expendable. This theory rests on the notion that we can exhort our reports to work together for the sake of the team 364 days a year and then, when it really counts, pit them against one another in a zero-sum competitive exercise. That's a decent strategy for TV shows such as Survivor but disastrous for organizations that intend to stay in business for the long term. What to do instead: Evaluate employees against written goals and move quickly to remove poor performers all the time (not just once a year).
2. Front-Loaded Recruiting Systems
All the rage in the corporate hiring arena, so-called front-loaded hiring processes require candidates to surmount the Seven Trials of Hercules before earning so much as a phone call from your HR staff. Those trials can include credit checks, reference checks, online honesty tests, questionnaires, sample work assignments, and other mandatory drills that signal "We'll just need you to crawl over a few more bits of broken glass, and you may get that interview." Don't be fooled by job-market reports—talented, creative employees are as hard to snag as ever. Insulting and demeaning hiring practices are a big reason. What to do instead: Dismantle your Kafka-esque recruiting system and give hiring power back to your hiring managers. They'll thank you for it, and the quality and speed of your recruitment will skyrocket.
3. Overdone Policy Manuals
You know who's making money for your employer right now? Workers who are selling, building, or inventing stuff. You know who's spending the business's money right now? Other employees (most easily found in HR, IT, and Finance) who've been commanded to write, administer, and enforce the 10,000 policies that make up your company's employee handbook. Overblown policy efforts squelch creativity, bake fear into your culture, and...