We often joke that when we start working on a specific kind of document for one client, several other want the same thing at the same time. It’s a strange, but happy coincidence that we’ve seen with financial services, insurance policies, privacy notices and now employee policies. But why are they suddenly all the rage?
If you’re a start-up and you’ve just started hiring employees, the list of policies you need could be very daunting. Some companies ignore the policy writing process completely, hoping for the best. Others download general templates and try to massage them to suit their company’s needs. Obviously, neither are ideal, so here are our insider tips for stress free policies. Since this is what we’re working on right now.
Why are policies important?
When your employees understand who is responsible for what, how to play well with others, and what will happen when they don’t, they feel safe and can get on with their work. It’s that simple.
Thinking strategically about policies
We have a saying around the office: If it’s not read, it’s dead.
Organisations often shell out huge amounts of money on a set of policies, procedures or guidelines only to shelve them. Those thoughtfully crafted policies do nothing to inspire employees, clear up roles, or establish rules. Why? Because nobody takes the time to read them or to integrate them into any of the internal processes or campaigns. There’s your first bit of free advice about how to ensure the success of your policies!
The key to success is to devote the time and resources to develop a policies and practices strategy before things go wrong. So, what do we mean by things going wrong? Oh, that could include anything from the enormous number of hours you waste trying to align everyone’s behaviour, correcting behaviour and playing referee, to time and money spent at the CCMA.
If you’ve never thought of your policies as part of your business strategy before, think about how much simpler things could be if you had a strategy in place for developing, communicating and enforcing a set of policies and practices that reflect your business’ standards of acceptable behaviour.
And it’s not just about drawing boundaries. It’s about recognising and addressing people’s needs and ensuring that employees have clear expectations and are treated fairly as they help to build your business.
Where do you start?
A great starting point is to create a policy framework that becomes part of your policy library. It should clearly set out:
- who is responsible for managing the policy writing process,
- who decides when you need a policy,
- who signs off on the policy, and
- how often policies are reviewed.
The framework can include the policy template, and the company style guide.
If anyone is tasked with drafting a policy, this should be their go-to document.
How do you know which policies you need?
Our resident policy specialist, Suzaan de Stadler, says it’s best to start with policies that govern critical behaviour. Focus on those things that are part of the everyday running of your business, but that could cause confusion. Her suggestion for your top 3 policies:
- Leave policy and procedure
- Working hours, including breaks and overtime
- A disciplinary code, explaining which offenses will lead to a wrap on the knuckles and which will land you in front of the firing squad.
Having these policies in place is a great starting point and could save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Don’t forget about your company culture
Although many companies have the basics in place, they fail to describe their company culture in their policies. A little guidance on ‘how we work together’ can go a long way in creating an engaged workforce.
Use the right tools
Equip your employees with the tools they need to do their work well, including tools to help them find, read and implement policies effortlessly. We partner with Compliance Online who have developed a wonderful tool called Policy Passport.
Tools like these are vital not just to help avoid litigation, but also to minimise the time it takes for you to deal with productivity-draining people issues instead of core business matters.
Get in touch if you’d like to pick our brains about your policy documents, if you need templates, or if you’d like to rethink your policy library entirely. If you’ve found creative ways of implementing your policies, we’d love to hear about them.