Developing Successful HR Policies

human resources on clipboard

Building an effective human resource department has to do with building a culture where employees are valued and treated fairly. To do that, it’s important for organisations to take policy development seriously as these promote consistency and help create a more positive company culture. HR policies are necessary because they set in place different rules and standards by which organisations can work more smoothly.

The purpose of developing HR policies

Many organisations do not understand the purpose behind developing their own practices as they see them as nothing more than a way to comply with the law, which they can do without having to go the extra mile. But, HR policies are more than just a way to comply with the law and protect organisations from lawsuits; they provide organisations with a framework to design strategies to handle its workforce. They outline a company’s obligations towards its employees and the standards and behaviour that the organisation needs to maintain, while they also include the paperwork that is required to implement each policy.

Areas where HR policies are necessary:

  • Working Conditions
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Employee Relations
  • Employee Placement
  • Health and Safety
  • Workplace Diversity
  • Training and Development
  • Privacy
  • Vacation
  • Sick Leave
  • Maternity, Parental and Adoption Leave
  • Recruitment
  • Performance Management
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Discrimination and Harassment

Making your HR policies more effective

As HR policies are the guidelines that organisations adopt to manage their employees, it’s important to take great care that they are implemented correctly. The more effective these practices are, the better the results they’ll yield. Some of the most successful companies on the planet invest in their HR policies as they see them as a way to build up their employer brand and attract top talent, which in turn can help them get a leg up on the competition.

Google, for example, is considered one of the top employers out there exactly because their policies are employee-oriented; from extended leave for new parents, to offering new parents a bonus to help with the expenses of a new-born, Google invests in policies that help their employees make the most of their lives.

1. Target company values

Organisations represent certain values, and it’s important for company practices to reflect them. This helps companies boost their brand by increasing client trust and loyalty, while it also helps bring in fresh talent.

2. Make them specific and clear

The key to ensuring that the policies you’ve set up are followed is to ensure that they are clear and specific enough to not leave room for doubt. Having a clearly spelled-out course of action for a specific situation can help employees feel that they are treated fairly and equally.

Making your HR policies specific and clear can also make them more consistent which is crucial for large organisations as it not only saves time, but it also helps avoid tension.

3. Comply with the law and regulations

It’s important to remember that your company operates within a government-approved framework and as such, it is monitored which means that it needs to comply with the existing legislation. Taking regulations into consideration when developing policies will help companies avoid potential legal problems and ensure quality.

Developing policies

Developing policies is an essential step for any new company, but it’s also important to understand that policies need to be monitored and updated. Often, legislation will change which will make certain procedures obsolete, while others might prove ineffective in the particular workplace. Whatever the case, an HR manager needs to ensure that these practices correspond to the specific needs of the employees.

1. Identify the need for a new policy

There are four occasions which require you to start drafting new policies.  

  • New legislation requires organisations to have specific policies in place.
  • New policy is essential to ensure that the organisation is in compliance with the law even though legislation does not expressly require one.
  • There’s no consistency in how managers make their decisions which is negatively impacting the workplace.
  • Not everyone is clear about how things need to be done in the organisation.

2. Understand what you want to achieve with this policy

Remember that by developing a policy, you are establishing a standard that will be applied throughout the organisation and as such, you need to ensure that the new policy does not just cater to the few, but rather that it’s there for the majority.

By understanding exactly what a policy can achieve you are creating the content and also ensuring that it’s bullet proof.

  • What is the outcome this policy needs to achieve?
  • Can it support and promote the desired work culture?
  • How and by whom will it be monitored and enforced?
  • Will it restrict managers from doing their job efficiently? How can this be avoided?
  • Will it help the organisation attract top talent?
  • Will it be easy to implement? Will employees welcome it?
  • Does it reflect company values? How can it enhance them?

3. Consult with senior management

As you’ll probably need approval from senior management before you proceed with the policy, consider consulting them before the policy is written down. This will help ensure that your efforts do not go to waste, while any feedback they have will help you create a better procedure.

It’s important to talk with everyone that will be involved with the policy, so make sure you also consult with managers who will be responsible for implementing the policies. Remember that as they deal with employees regularly, they’ll be able to provide great insight.

4. Draft the policy

As the policy will address employees it’s important to make the language as straightforward as possible. Avoid legal speech and jargon as it’s not necessary, and make sure that the wording is unbiased. It’s also advisable to make the wording as flexible as possible and to allow for exceptions by using terms such as ‘generally’, ‘usually’, ‘typically’ etc.

What it needs to include:

  • The goal of the policy
  • The people it addresses to and to whom it applies
  • The actual rule or standard you need to communicate
  • References such as other policies, documents and legislations that support this policy
  • The date the policy comes into effect

5. Review the policy

Before you start implementing the policy you need to ask the people involved to review it. This will help ensure that people understand the procedure and their feedback can also help you improve the wording etc.

It’s always a good idea to put together a group of employees and managers and use them as your test subjects. This will be less time consuming and it will yield the same results as if you were asking everyone in the company.

Questions to ask the managers:

  • Will you be able to implement this policy? Do you have the skills and resources required?
  • Do you understand your and your subordinates’ responsibilities?
  • Do you think that the wording of the policy is unbiased?

Questions to ask employees:

  • Do you understand your responsibilities and what is expected of you?
  • Do you think that the wording is unbiased?
  • What training or extra information would you need before this policy is implemented?

It will not always be necessary to have a lawyer review your policies. But, it’s strongly recommended that for policies which are complex or have to do with discipline and grievance you consult an employment law lawyer.

Developing consistent policies can help organisations build a more positive company culture and run more smoothly. It’s also important to find different implementation methods, such as employee handbooks, to ensure that they will be successfully implemented.

Have you ever developed a HR policy? Let us know about it…