Is your Policy Handbook getting a little thick? When I’m asked to rewrite a company’s substance free workplace policy and they provide me with a handbook that is already 40 pages long, I start to feel a little guilty because I know that I am about to add at least a page or two. Then when I find the existing drug and alcohol policy right after the “Microwave and Coffee Machine Policy,” the guilt is quickly replaced by concern. It seems quite likely that the very important policy I am about to write will just get lost in the shuffle. You frequently add new policy, but how often do you purge the old? Here are some simple guidelines to follow when editing down your company policies:
Is it a priority? If a policy doesn’t function to directly support the company’s profit, mission or culture, it probably doesn’t rise to “policy” status. Although parking may be of significant practical concern, it may not be policy-worthy. Another example may be a dress code policy. In some businesses, the manner in which the employees dress can very directly affect the company’s profit or culture, but in others it is less important. The first step in prioritizing your policies is to make sure that your business has a clearly defined mission, culture and path to profitability.
Is it enforceable? To successfully implement a policy, there has to be explicit language regarding its enforceability. This language includes determining the ownership/responsibility of enforcing the policy and the consequences of not following the policy. Keep in mind that consequences are not necessarily punitive. You may have a policy regarding personal cell phone use. Even if you feel very strongly that employees should not be using their cell phones at work, do you have the capacity or desire to play cell phone police? If not, you may have to lose that policy. If restricting personal cell phone use is a high priority policy, make sure that there are provisions for its enforcement.
Is it current? Some policies get written in trends. Remember the sexual harassment wave of the 90s? Or the social media explosion of the 2000s? Some of these trendy policies may be outdated. Any policy regarding the use of technology should at least be reviewed. The types of technology we use and how we use them change very quickly. It’s time for that “Video Display Terminal Policy” to go. You may also find some reactionary policies that were written in response to a specific situation. Did an employee with a severe peanut allergy inspire a “No Peanut Policy?” If so, situations change and your policies should as well.
Remember that not every aspect of how you expect your employees to behave needs to be addressed in a company-wide policy. There are plenty of other ways to make your expectations clear (trainings, meetings, supervision, signs/posters, performance reviews, etc). It’s important to carefully edit the policies you present to employees so that they have a clear understanding of your company’s priorities and your commitment to enforcing those policies. I probably can’t help you with your “Shared Refrigerator Policy,” but I’d love to help with your Substance Free Workplace Policy. Is your current policy impacting profitability and culture, enforceable, and current? If not, give us a call