Raise your hand if your favorite saying is, “But we’ve always done it this way!”

Hopefully your arms are firmly by your sides. And yet we’ve all worked in places where the rules of the day are also the rules of yesterday. And last year. And since the dawn of time.

Keeping up in today’s fast-paced business climate requires new ideas and new ways of thinking, some of which may seem hard to embrace. Don’t let that stop you from moving forward. The leaders and organizations who will charge ahead in this environment are those who are willing to re-think their processes and build strong environments based on mutual trust and respect. Company policies that were originally designed to monitor and control employee behaviors need to shift toward procedures that reward their efforts and empower their success.

Of course every organization has its own unique structure, priorities, and requirements, but when’s the last time you took a good, hard look at your approach to managing your employees? Are there some deeply engrained ways of thinking that have lost their usefulness? Do you have rules and regulations hanging around that have staff feeling more monitored than motivated?

If you want to make the important shift from enforcement to empowerment, here are two common corporate mindsets worth re-thinking:

1.) The 8 – 5 mentality

Remember when Dolly Parton sang about working 9 to 5? Even back then, she wasn’t too happy about it. Imagine how she’d feel about 8 – 5:30.

Associating productivity with desk time is an old way of thinking. With remote capabilities, many employees are checking emails and taking calls even when they’re not at work. And according to the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study, one in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours per week working outside of the office on their personal time. Chaining them to their desks for another 40 hours just doesn’t seem fair.

If your company doesn’t require someone to be physically on-site during specific hours to accomplish what you need to, why not ditch the clock-watching mentality and change your policy to be more dynamic?

If your top salesperson isn’t a morning person, why not let her start her day later? Chances are she’ll accomplish twice as much once she’s fully awake. On the flip side, maybe you have an account manager who can’t get things done because he’s always offering to help out his coworkers. Allowing him to come in early and work distraction-free for a couple of hours could be a great solution. As long as the work is getting done efficiently and well, who cares what time it happens?

Trust your employees to use their judgement and work when they need to.

Increased scheduling flexibility often correlates with higher productivity and lower turnover. And if you do find the occasional person who isn’t actually putting in the effort or getting things done, you’ll be able to figure it out based on results and address the issue accordingly.

2.) Appearance standards

Over the years, many companies have relaxed their dress codes significantly and employees are loving it. If you’re still holding on to strict standards, it’s time to ask yourself why. Is it an integral part of your brand? If so, that definitely needs to be taken into account. But if not, consider this a cost-free way to increase employee satisfaction.

Freeing people up to be who they are and dress as they wish creates an environment of acceptance and trust, which is an integral part of keeping employees engaged— and around.

At the very least, look up your official appearance standards and make sure they reflect the current decade. If the words bell bottoms and panty hose are anywhere to be found, you’ve got some work to do.

While you’re in there, you may want to see if your company has a specific policy on hair color. Advanced coloring techniques have a lot of people (women and men!) dyeing to get creative with their ‘dos. In other words, blue may be the new brown. If you decide to allow your staff to let their true colors fly, you’re in good company. Starbucks recently updated their “keep it natural” policy to accept more colorful hair options after a petition on coworker.org received nearly 15,000 signatures.

Still on the fence about tattoos? You may want to jump off. According to The Harris Poll, three in ten Americans have at least one tattoo. When it comes to millennials, that number jumps to almost 50%. Do the math: That’s 50 percent of your future workforce (and customers!) who are completely okay with tattoos. Eventually, it will be hard to find and hire anybody who doesn’t have a little ink.

And while it’s natural to worry about what your customers might think, The Harris Poll also showed steadily increasing acceptance for tattoos in the professional world. In fact, about 35% of all Americans, (and 50% of millennials) are “extremely comfortable” with visible tattoos on their bankers, doctors and judges. And not to get political, but 58% of Americans are even comfortable with visible tattoos on presidential candidates.

Determine what works

If you’re not ready to go all in on either of these issues just yet, chances are there are other things your employees would like to see changed. All you have to do is ask. You may be surprised to find out what a big difference a few little changes can make.         

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