A suite of robust policies and procedures is an essential element of good governance in any organisation. Often employers discover that their policies and procedures are inadequate, only once their actions are reviewed by a tribunal or court.
Adequate workplace policies are key mechanisms for outlining exactly what the standards of conduct are in your organisation. Workplace policies should clearly and succinctly explain the topic covered and provide the procedures that need to be followed in a given area.
Let's take a look at the features of a well-written policy, plus the best ways to implement, promote and review these important business documents.
The benefits of a well-written policy cannot be overstated. Sometimes policies are mistakenly seen as 'stating the obvious' in the workplace. Yet, without workplace policies that set out clear requirements and processes, confusion and mismanagement can spread across the organisation.
A good place to start when developing a policy or procedure is to seek the ideas and input from the key people involved. This can improve staff commitment to the policy if they observe in the final document that their voice has been heard.
In terms of style, a well-written policy must demonstrate clarity and specificity. While it is in order to outline at the beginning of a policy where it 'fits' into organisational objectives, generalisations should be avoided.
For example, rather than requesting that 'staff should make sure that they respect client privacy when it comes to using files', a well written policy is likely to include specific directives such as 'Hardcopy client files must be stored in the section F compactus within 30 minutes of use'.
There is an art to developing and introducing workplace policies that will be read, understood, accepted and actually used.
Firstly, all stakeholders in the organisation - staff, suppliers, clients, contractors - need to see that management is fully in support of the policy's content. Policies without perceived support and commitment from management are unlikely to gain traction with staff.
Similarly, policy developers must consult effectively with staff about the proposed policies and welcome their comments; after all, they are the ones likely to be dealing with the contents on a day-to-day basis.
A well-written workplace policy needs to clearly define key terms within the policy. New employees will need to familiarise themselves with expectations of their role and responsibilities as quickly as possible, without the confusing jargon. Defining 'the obvious' terms can save frustration and costs down the track.
Once the scope and substance are ascertained, the policy must be documented and distributed effectively.
Make sure that the initial publicity effort is multi-media and ensure that during induction of new employees, in team meetings, on the intranet, at training, in the staff bulletin and on the kitchen cork board (plus anywhere else that works), you give clear information about the policy and where to find it.
Following up on your publicity about the policy and refresher training is essential and should be carried out regularly across the organisation.
No matter how well written, a good policy or procedure will still need to be evaluated and reviewed.
A logical starting point can be to check effectiveness against key objectives. For example, injury rates or client complaint numbers might be used to gauge the success or otherwise of a particular policy.
Another good source of information to help you assess the policy will be the people actually impacted by its wording.
Policy developers need to be truly open to ideas when it comes to reviewing existing policies. Good governance and strong organisational achievement will often depend upon robust, realistic and clearly-worded policy documents.
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