Workplace policies are at the heart of various aspects of how you operate as a business, from how you onboard new employees to how you manage issues like lateness and absence.
If you want to reach the highest levels of performance and get the most out of your people, it's worth taking time to ensure these policies are up to date, relevant and effective.
That means conducting regular reviews, which will give you insights into the current state of your policies and how they're performing. If you haven't gone through this process in some time, there's a good chance at least some of your policies are no longer fit for purpose, so what can you do to improve them?
1. Have a clear purpose
There's little point in having workplace policies if they don't have a clear reason for existing. As obvious as this statement might sound, if it's been a while since you last reviewed your core procedures and guidelines, you might be surprised to discover how outdated and unnecessary some of them are.
One of the key points to consider is whether your policies align with your most important current goals as a company. If one of your main objectives at the moment is to build a socially conscious, responsible brand, for example, the way your employees behave and the habits they adopt in the workplace should reflect this.
It's crucial that the driving purpose behind your workplace protocols is fully explained to your staff. If people understand why these policies aren’t just necessary but important and potentially beneficial to them, they’ll be more likely to uphold them.
When the time comes to update your workplace policies, the changes you make should be based on thorough consultation with employees and all relevant stakeholders. This is another good way to increase the chances that people won’t only be aware of the policies that are relevant to them, but more likely to respect and adhere to them.
Engage in conversations with the people who’ll be most affected by your planned changes. Get their views on the systems and procedures that already work well, which ones need to change and the new policies they’d like to see introduced.
The harder you work to involve as many people as possible in significant operational reforms within the business, the more you’ll benefit in terms of staff engagement, loyalty and interest in helping the company succeed.
3. Avoid ambiguity
Absolute clarity is hugely important in workplace policies. It helps ensure that every member of the workforce knows exactly where they stand and what’s expected of them while they're working for the company.
This is why it's vital to avoid any ambiguity in how your policies are written. The language used must be clear and unequivocal, to ensure there’s no potential for misinterpretation or exploitation of loopholes by unscrupulous or disgruntled employees.
You need to have complete confidence in the messages you're conveying to members of the workforce, particularly when you're forced to go down the disciplinary route and need to justify the action you're taking.
4. Don't be generic
A common trap many businesses fall into when designing their workplace policies is copying generic guidelines that are used by other companies in their sector. Industry-standard procedures can be a useful starting point, but they probably won't offer the specificity and relevance you need to develop the best possible policies.
When you're writing or updating your workplace procedures and protocols, it's worth constantly questioning their appropriateness in the context of your organization, the challenges you face and the most important objectives you're striving to achieve.
This will help you to ensure your policies are hyper-relevant and current, and also that they make sense to your workforce, which is perhaps the most important thing of all. Employees will naturally engage more with guidelines and structures that have been carefully designed with them in mind, rather than copied or imported from elsewhere.