The key to great employment policies

Wait: great HR policies?

Yes, there really are such things.

You are probably more used to long, boring, bureaucratic and legally-worded ones with lots of ‘for the avoidance of doubt’s and ‘up to and including’. You may have even had to sign something to say you’ve read and understood a document which makes the 90-odd pages of Apple’s terms and conditions look like a “Baby’s First Words” chewable book.

Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Your employment policies are more than the sum of their parts. They are more than just a document that someone signs (and rarely reads) when they start in your organisation. They are also a window into your culture. They are how you talk to the people that work for you.

I once accepted a job and the HR department I was joining sent me a huge pile of policies to read and sign in the post along with my contract of employment. They were formal, shouty and with plenty of detail about how they reserved the right to fire me for all sorts of potential transgressions. A nice “welcome to the company” and good first impression they were not.

Instead, when carefully and thoughtfully written, employment policies can be empowering.

They can be short and simple.
They can be worded in plain English.
They can allow for discretion.
They can give a good first impression.
They don’t have to cover every eventuality.
They don’t have to have all the answers.
They don’t have to be mood hoovers.
They don’t have to be formal and wordy.

If you want great HR policies, then here are my top tips:

  • Keep them short and to the point
  • Think about the language you use – straightforward, plain English is just fine (and in fact is much better!)
  • Consider whether you even need one at all – many companies have far too many separate policies
  • Follow the ACAS code for discipline and grievance – you don’t need to do any more than this to be compliant.
  • Make them relevant to your organisation – think about what you need at your place, not what everyone else does. Don’t cut and paste from other organisations just because they have theirs on the internet! We can usually tell when this has happened….
  • Remember – writing a policy never solved a problem. Talking to people usually wins every time.
    The policy document is just the start – it is (usually) the job of HR to interpret, guide and advise. Putting it out there and telling people to read isn’t good enough.

And while we’re at it, don’t worry all that much about getting people to sign them. It really isn’t worth all the hard work. And if you do, once you update them you’ve got to do it all over again. Not to mention the fact that someone (and yes, we mean you, HR person) will have to monitor who hasn’t done it and chase them down.

Lastly, it goes without saying that if you would like any help with policy creation…… then just give me a shout!

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