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Policies are like “Holy books” to HR professionals. Our whole work revolves around them. Be it implementing the mission of the organization, fostering a healthy, safe and secure work environment in the organisation, guiding us in day-to-day functioning, or carrying out business within the legal framework. A well-documented policy always helps. So, the real question is what exactly is meant by company policy and how to form an effective policy and its implementation – the most critical part. Let’s find out.
What is a company policy and why is it necessary to have them in place?
A “policy” is the guidelines to help a company to take decisions while carrying out its functions. These are well-documented sets of rules for a company to help its employees to understand things to do or not to do. It provides a clear pathway for a company to achieve its mission.
A well-documented policy helps –
- To provide a clear path for decision-making.
- To promote a healthy and transparent working environment in the organisation.
- To give clarity in carrying out day-to-day business activities.
- To cover against any potential non-compliance (like POSH Act).
- To protect its employees’ rights and business interest
- Most importantly Helps to enhance the image of an organization
While both are necessary for the survival and growth of a company, in the long run, they are distinct.
Types of company policies
Company policies can mainly fall into one of the below categories:
Such policies are the main highlights of a company handbook. The main focus of these policies is on “acceptable employee behaviour at work.” These policies clearly define the do’ and don’ts for them while conducting themselves professionally in the company. Policies related to dress code, Anti-Sexual harassment, Data privacy and confidentiality, Computer etiquette (including e-mails), Drugs and alcohol prevention, etc. can be categorised under this head.
Health and safety policy
Employees or workers are the most valuable assets of any company. The objectives of such policies are mainly to protect these human assets from any possible injury or life-threatening scenarios. Simple and clearly defined dos’ and don’ts mentioned in the policies help managers and workers to follow given SOP’s and avoid any unpleasant event. There are certain industry-specific acts like The Mines Act, 1952, Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1986 along with that of The Factory Act, 1948 which be kept in mind while framing policies in case your company falls under such specific category.
Rules are not meant to be broken and every HR wishes that a need to take disciplinary action against any employee never arises. However, if any rule is broken and a need arises where disciplinary action has to be taken then a well-defined policy always helps. A clearly defined policy not only guides HR to take required action but also covers companies from any possibility of litigation.
Such policies should mainly cover –
- Actions cause of indiscipline,
- Possible disciplinary actions,
- Manner of inquiry,
- Available legal options to the concerned parties
Employee benefits and leave
These types of policies interest employees and they want to know about them as they talk about the returns one gets against their offerings to the company. A clearly defined and attractive policy not only helps to motivate employees but also avoids any impartiality towards them. Under such policies the main topics that are covered are –
- Type and number of benefits and perks available to employees category-wise.
- Type of leaves available to employees and the circumstances under which they can be taken.
- Rules regarding flexible working hours, work from home, etc.
- Benefits related to insurance, retirement, bonus (both statutory and performance link).
Gender neutrality policy
It is a current trend in many companies, especially in MNCs, to have such types of policies. The objectives of such policies are to avoid any discrimination and encourage support and respect to a person irrespective of their gender, race, caste, ethnicity, etc. and embrace an all-inclusive work culture in the company. Nowadays manly organisations are going for gender neutrality policy and include words like LGBT’s in the policies, due diligence needs to be given to some statutory acts like the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which are gender-specific while framing policies.
Steps to develop and implement a new company policy
Determine the need of the policy
Just like “Too many cooks spoil the soup”, too many policies create more confusion than providing clarity. Policies are meant to assist smooth functioning in the company. Check if your “Why” is really strong enough to go for a new policy, if yes, then go ahead else look for an alternative solution.
Objective and scope of a policy
Before drafting any policy be clear about the objectives you want to achieve by implementing the policy as well as the scope of the policy. As a policymaker, an HR needs to have a clear picture in mind about the purpose of the policy.
HR needs to be clear about the following points before drafting any policy –
- The end result of a policy – be it improving productivity, employee efficiency, increasing safety, providing equal employment opportunity, etc.
- Be clear about its applicability – till what grade it is applicable, does it apply to the whole organisation or for a specific region.
Don’t be in a hurry to draft any policy. Collect as much information as you can about the topic. For example, it is always advisable to involve technical experts or production in charge of their valuable inputs before drafting any policy related to employee health and safety.
Regarding this, you may:
- Review existing or old policies to avoid any duplication or possible overwriting
- Involve related stakeholders – legal experts, technical advisors, external consultants as per need.
- Listen and take part in discussions on topics with industry peers. Like while drafting WFM policy during an unprecedented pandemic time, such interactions help.
- Do online research, check out for any similar policies of other organisations.
Drafting a policy
Follow the basic rule of “Write, Review, Rewrite” while drafting a policy:
- Keep it simple and precise and relevant to the topic keeping in mind your target audience, always remember more you keep it simple; it is easy to understand and implement
- Don’t go overboard to make “that perfect policy.” Remember you cannot cover every minuscule instance while drafting hence focus on major and common possible scenarios.
- Involve those who have provided inputs before drafting for suggestions, invite a small group of employee representatives for a pilot study, gauge their understanding, take feedback and make changes if required.
- Make sure your policy is relevant and execution is practically possible
- Be flexible, have room for modifications if required.
Approval from top management and legal team
This is a must for every policymaker. Once you are ready with your draft, let a legal expert churn out any flaws from a compliance point of view. In the absence of an in-house legal support, get help from outside if required. Once that hurdle is passed, present it to the management for their review and approval.
Communicate to the employee at large
Once you are done with the above steps, do not just limit yourself to updating the employee handbooks or updating your system or files. Be proactive to reach out to a larger audience. Creating awareness will help them to understand and embrace the changes faster.
- Send an email (if possible) to all employees highlighting important aspects of policy, provide them the link to read the whole policy on the company portal.
- Use placards, posters, etc. at common places – near entrance, cafeteria, pantry, other common areas
- Put up a poster on notice boards for employees
- In the case of small organisations, set up a direct meeting with employees helps, ensure that the communication does not end up unilaterally; provide them an opportunity to ask doubts
- Arrange training programs, modify employee orientation programs if need so
- Be patient while dealing with their apprehensions, doubts, resistance, etc. Remember the human mind does not always accept changes easily and not everyone’s the same.
Implement the policy
Once you are done with the steps mentioned above go, you can go ahead with implementing them. However, do not just stop there. Do keep an eye on the objectives set prior are being achieved or not. Take actions if necessary, do not hesitate to modify or revoke any clauses as per requirement.
A well-documented policy always helps but one needs to understand that policies are made for “Humans” and not for robots. So let there be some freedom for employees to function within the company. Do not overdo with policies, sometimes it is better not to have a policy than having a wrong policy.
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