What we’re up to: Plain Language Policies

  • Dinosaur in a shirt

Over the last few months we’ve increasingly been working on redrafting all different types of policies for various different clients. From HR policies to information governance policies.
It may seem like a tedious job, but we love it because it gives us the opportunity to correct those things that are so often wrong with policies. The biggest problem? They’re not read. Updating policies is about more than putting lipstick on a dinosaur.

We always say: if it’s not read, it’s dead.

While there may be various reasons your employees are not reading policies, we think the problem may lie in the fact that employees aren’t always able to quickly assess how the policy will impact their job, and what they should do about it.
We’re also going to share our secret with you to getting your policies read, and ensuring that you have a record of your employees reading it. Intrigued? Read on!

Where do we start when we create a policy?

First, we like to know who is going to use the policy the most. Those are the people the policy should ‘speak’ to. They not only need to understand it, but they should also find it useful.
Sometimes a client will insist that ‘everyone in the company’ must read the policy. Sure, but there are always primary and secondary (and even incidental) readers. While everyone in the company may need to take note of the policy, there may only be one department whose work will be affected by the policy every day. You can see why you need to give this one a little thought!
Next, we identify the communicative purpose of the document.
A policy’s purpose is usually to inform the reader about principles, instruct them on how to implement these principles (by way of procedures) and to motivate them to follow these procedures (i.e. describe the disciplinary measures that will be taken if they don’t comply with the policy).
Once we’ve determined the audience and the purpose of the document, we plan the structure. A clear logical structure will increase the readability of the document and the comprehension of the reader. The structure of a document includes both the order in which information is presented, and layout – the visual representation.
Only now do we get to language and we decide on a stylistic approach. We aim to use language that improves clarity and precision.
Finally, we would look at layout and design. We create emphasis where needed, make sure we use white space to make the text easier and pleasing to read and include graphics where appropriate.

How do you implement this lovely new policy?

We partner with Compliance Online who have developed a wonderful tool called Policy Passport.
Policy Passport electronically alerts your team to the documents that they need to read. It tracks who opened the document and whether they read it, tests their comprehension of the content (if you want to) and requires them to acknowledge the content. Sorted!

Speak to us

We would love to help you create plain language policies that are actually read, or if you don’t have any policies we have some great templates that you can customise for your business.
 
 
 

About the Author:

Ilze Luttig Hattingh
Ilze is what can only be described as a common sense attorney (the Force is strong with her). She specialises in regulatory compliance, risk management and commercial contract law. She joined us in the beginning of 2016 when she got a bit tired of being an in-house legal advisor. Now she is an out-house legal advisor (she gets stuff sorted out). She finds simple, innovative and business-oriented solutions to compliance management problems. Ilze doesn’t write books, she reads them. Ilze likes the wind in her face when she is riding her bike or travelling the world. She’d love to learn how to make bread, Limoncello and a beautiful Bordeaux blend, and how to paint with oils. She also caught Elizabeth’s Lego bug (come to our offices and you will see). She dislikes people who use jargon like ‘big rocks’, ‘on-boarding’ and ‘this speaks to’. Paul often ‘puts things to her’ just for the reaction. She HATES tomatoes. Want to find out more about Ilze? Take a look at her LinkedIn profile, better yet contact her on ilze@novcon.co.za or (021) 481 1827.