What’s one of the first things you do when you get a new car? You check out the owner’s manual, right? Why? Because it contains instructions to help you get the best out of your new wheels. Your set of workplace policies and procedures has the same purpose.
A relevant, current and comprehensive set of policies and procedures addressing key areas such as conduct, recruitment, health and safety, equal opportunity, communications, grievances and complaints, discipline and termination of employment, are a framework for the effective operation of your business. They clearly define and reinforce appropriate standards of behaviour and performance, outline management strategies and specify consequences for non-compliance.
From the Start
Your car manual allows you to optimise driving performance from the outset. Your workplace policies and procedures ensure that everyone clearly understands the workplace purpose, scope, mission and strategy, as well as their rights and responsibilities. Having employees read and understand these documents as part of their induction is critical. They should be clearly visible (think tea room poster) and easily accessible (think online folder) and referred to regularly.
Your car manual explains certain features, and allows you to enjoy all the benefits of the car whilst avoiding doing harm.
Similarly, policies and procedures provide clear, often step-by-step directions that explain the why, what, who, when and how when it comes to the daily business of your workplace. They set expectations, help prevent problems and ensure consistency in approach and response to behaviour and employee interaction.
Your car manual outlines the ideal way to drive your car; the do’s and don’ts to improve safety, optimise fuel efficiency and reduce wear and tear. Ignoring this advice will come at your own expense – literally!
While having clear employment and HR policies is the first step to ensuring best practice in your business, they’re pointless if they aren’t referred to or implemented at every level of your business. While the onus is on all employees to be familiar with the business policies and procedures, it’s equally important for management to enforce them. This will send the signal that expectations are real, that everyone is held to the same standards and will be treated consistently.
Like when a car warning light goes off, policies and procedures are often the documents you need to reach for in a hurry when there’s a workplace problem to solve. Often the way to manage a situation, grievance or complaint has already been decided, reducing the stress in an often time-limited, highly-charged context. While the resolution process will help you take the correct measures within a suitable timeframe, it’s also important to realise that policies are a guide that managers can follow with discretion, when flexibility is called for.
Paid up car insurance is another ‘must have’ before you drive off in your new car. It’s the risk management strategy we all use to cover ourselves in the event of an accident or damage to our car.
If something goes wrong in your business or a policy is breached, procedures that are up-to-date and in line with the law can be implemented and enforced. They provide that all-important protective shield (or insurance) against misunderstanding or manipulation. It is therefore critical to regularly ‘health check’ your policies and procedures to ensure they reflect any legislative changes and remain relevant. It’s also important to ensure definitions are explicit, clear and applicable to everyone.
Time to Optimise!
Your policies and procedures need to be written, circulated, referred to and enforced in order to:
- set employee expectations regarding behaviour and performance;
- establish processes for decision-making;
- provide a consistent response for behaviour and employee interaction;
- demonstrate good faith that employees will be treated fairly and equitably;
- set a procedure for dealing with grievances and complaints;
- provide a means of communicating information that is applicable to all staff; and
- offer protection from breaches of employment legislation.
Get this right, and you’re well on your way to optimising your workplace culture and productivity!