From the time I arrived at Mennonite Church Canada, I felt blessed and spoiled by an amazing group of supervisors – caring, compassionate and intelligent people. As an HR person, such a consistently capable and competent group of leaders was something I had never seen in my secular jobs.
I thought that with such an adept group of leaders, the typical pitfalls of leading and supervising would be a thing of the past. But even the most talented group of leaders encounter difficulties. I discovered one essential but missing item at the root of these challenges: standardization.
Essentially, different supervisors used different tools and practices across the organization, and that sometimes led to different results.
People need to feel that they are being treated fairly. Research in the field of employee engagement shows that perceptions of fairness by employees leads to increased engagement, resulting in more positive satisfaction and production at work. This type of research aligns well with the Anabaptist perspective on justice, where we seek to model a just and loving Christian community through right practice (see http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/J8722.html for our Mennonite church’s statement on Justice and the Christian Witness). Even with the best of intentions, approaching people in the same circumstances with different criteria will be seen as arbitrary and unjust. Even the perception of unfairness or injustice can derail an organization quickly and call our Christian love and witness into question. This is why prewritten policies are so helpful. They spin out a number of possible variations on a theme and then offer standardized responses.
Standardized tools should also include interviews, reference checks and performance reviews. For example, research shows that using the same basic interview questions for all candidates increases your ability to discern and compare their qualifications and differences. By standardizing your HR tools, you can provide a template for practices that will enable good supervisors to be great.
A caution or two here about policies. First, you cannot write a policy for absolutely every event. Real life doesn’t follow a script, and so a policy is only as good as the people applying it. If the people have a negative spirit, the policy can be applied negatively. The underlying assumption of policy application is that we apply it in good faith.
Second, good policies are flexible so that they can accommodate situational nuances. This does not mean changing policy to favour some people over others, but it does mean that we have the freedom to apply policy judiciously and with kindness to all.
Is there a need for more standardization in your church?