Effective Employee Policy: A How-To Guide

Kristi Birkeland on Jul 21, 2017 3:00:00 AM

 Wouldn’t it be swell if everyone just knew how to behave in a workplace setting? Imagine everything running smoothly and all problems being solved quickly and easily with little to no confrontation. Ahhh. Such a nice idea.

Of course that isn’t how businesses operate. Organizational systems are complex and ever-changing, key players are constantly rotating in and out, and there are often competing interests at play.

When it comes to developing policy, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

The good

Having good policies in place can be a world of help to your business by:

  • Setting and communicating employee/management expectations
  • Creating a culture of trust, respect, and mutual accountability
  • Providing a sense of fairness and consistency company-wide
  • Reflecting your values back to staff and the community
  • Reducing organizational risk and liability

The Bad

Unfortunately, just having a policy in place isn’t enough. If your employee policies are incomplete, outdated or just plain bad, you’re putting yourself at risk for:

  • Constant confusion, miscommunication, and mistakes
  • Decreased staff engagement, productivity and morale
  • Increased employee conflict and turnover
  • Poor culture and limited recruiting ability
  • Discrimination or harassment lawsuits

The Ugly

From communication to vacation to termination, if there isn’t a process in place, you’ll be making it up as you go along— every single time. Results will be inconsistent, frustrating, and morale crushing.

In other words, things are gonna get ugly.

If your company leadership prefers “being flexible” over creating and documenting corporate policies, watch out. What they’re really doing is avoiding strategic decision making and the hard work of implementing the results. These organizations aren’t more flexible. They are more unprepared. And more vulnerable.

Give your employee policies a makeover

You have the power to set policies that not only create consistent rules and boundaries, but also result in positive outcomes for your business, brand, and culture.

When you align your HR processes and activities with your core company values, great things start to happen.

How to develop effective employee policy

Set policies that reflect company beliefs. Create a test for each policy you write. Is it in line with what you want to see in your business and the world? Resist the urge to copy policies directly from other organizations. After all, they aren’t you. Borrow and refine instead.

Recognize that all of your policies are connected. Your organizational policies need to work together and in a smooth, coherent way. No one policy should make you say, “Huh?”  You can’t pick and choose where to emphasize your core values. There needs to be consistency.

Make room for the gray. Life doesn’t happen in black and white. Surely we’ve all come across situations that require a little finesse. If applying your policy as written gets you a result that just doesn’t feel right or seem to make sense, don’t just enforce it blindly. You may need to consider extenuating circumstances, offer a contingency plan, or make some revisions.

Don’t work in a vacuum. Effective policy creation involves input from multiple sources. HR, leadership and even staff can be very helpful in creating well-thought-out policies. Policy that comes about through a collaborative effort is much more likely to be accepted and abided by.

Get the word out. Even the most brilliant policies won’t be adhered to if no one knows what they are. Communicate employee policy clearly and often. Create an Employee Handbook and update it whenever changes occur.

Train your team. Policies are pretty useless if they aren’t actually being practiced or enforced. Create a culture of accountability on all sides. Review policies with staff regularly and put processes in place for when they aren’t followed. Train leaders and managers on how to effectively communicate and enforce the policies you’ve put in place. Remember to allow a little leeway for life’s unpredictable moments.

The power of policy

Forming effective employee policy isn’t just about making a bunch of rules.

It’s about laying the groundwork for a solid organizational culture based on professionalism, fairness, respect, and trust. Doing so will help enhance employee recruitment, retention, morale, engagement, and productivity.

And at the end of the day, you’ll be building the kind of place you want to work.

Photo by Lockie

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Topics: HR Strategy