The importance of well-written employee guidelines cannot be overstated. Here’s how to make a perfect policies and procedures document.
If a company’s HR were a high-performing sports team, one might say that a well-curated policy and procedure document is the ultimate all-rounder; adept at offensive moves that preempt the state-of-play on the ground and reliable in defence – able to block classic manoeuvres, along with tricky feints.
In a nutshell, effective HR policy and procedure documents help you to establish robust structure and a basic set of rules in order to manage your people on a day to day basis. Their existence – and quality – also contributes to something equally important, though less tangible: the overall professionalism of your business operations to those internally and externally.
Effective HR policies and procedures document will ensure that you:
- Meet your basic legal obligations
- Help HR teams and managers make consistent and reliable decisions, which in turn promotes a culture of fairness
- Establish a clear understanding of expectations, rules and consequences
- Comprehensively welcome and introduce your employees to your business and their new job
What’s the difference between policy and procedure?
Policies reflect the “rules” governing the implementation of workplace processes.
Procedures, on the other hand, represent an implementation of policy and should evolve over time as new tools emerge, new processes are designed, and the risks associated with an area changes in response to internal or external environmental changes. In fact, there should be an expectation that individuals will ‘challenge’ outdated procedures and call them to the attention of the HR to reassess.
Who are you writing for?
Think about who is going to read them and what they need to get out of them. Documents should be written so that they can be understood by a wide audience, including employees across the executive, management and lower levels. Make sure you spell check them and use good grammar. These documents are seen by everyone and reflect quality of writing and standards within the company.
So what are the best practice approaches to a good policy and procedure document?
- Accessibility: making written policies and procedures readily available will ensure that actions are not taken in ignorance.
- Clarity: Policies are written in clear, concise, simple language. Remember that while these documents may contain legalese, they won’t be read by lawyers. Documents should provide a consistent, logical framework for action.
- That said, they should address what is the rule rather than how to implement the rule in order to allow HR to analyse and act on situations in real-time.
- Accountability is important from an HR perspective. You most likely have legal obligations to your employees under an employment or industrial agreement such as an award, workplace agreement or employment contract. Therefore it’s essential that HR makes certain that what’s written in P&P documents is consistent with these. If you’re unsure what covers your employees, check Fair Work Australia.
Top tips: characteristics of effective HR procedure documents:
- Procedures are tied to policies. Making explicit this relationship along with how the procedure helps the company achieve its goals.
- The procedures are understandable. Procedures should be written so that what needs to be done can be easily followed by all users.
- There is a sense of ownership among procedure users. To ensure procedures are followed correctly, it helps to involve teams and managers in their development.
- To this point, procedures should offer options where appropriate, as procedures which are unnecessarily restrictive may limit their usefulness.
Of course, it’s impossible to address every aspect of policy and procedure in a written document. In order to limit the opportunities for conflicting answers, it is important that HR agrees internally on best-practice approaches to dealing with issues that may fall outside the company’s official documents.
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