What’s Your Policy on Policies?

Organisational policies seem to be shroud in a cover of darkness; somewhat of a mystery for most people. What are they and what is their purpose?

Well, organisational policies are not only an important part of running a business effectively these days, but in some instances are absolutely essential for compliance with various legislation. For example, it is a bold business owner who ventures forth without an appropriate Occupational Health and Safety policy in place. Or an Equal Employment Opportunity policy. Sexual Harrasment policy? Yep that too.

So where does one draw the line between good policy development that supports business, and “death by policy” that undermines the very management discretion that so many leadership experts advocate for? I have to be honest – I am not a fan of policy for policy sake. For me, there must be a business imperative that drives the development of organisational policy. Too many times I have seen line managers and supervisors cry out for a policy on this, or a policy on that – simply because they lack the ability to make decisions on anything but black and white issues. Surely it is a failing of the business to prescribe so much into policy that it undermines the exact thing we pay managers to do – make decisions!

The fact is that this is more art than science at times and every business must determine what type of policy framework suits. At the very least I would always encourage a business to consider what I would regard as 5 or 6 mandatory policies including:

  • Code of Conduct;
  • Sexual Harassment Policy;
  • EEO Policy;
  • Workplace Bullying Policy;
  • Discrimination Policy; and
  • OH&S Policy.

It is quite reasonable to combine some of these mandatory policies into the one – just be careful not to dilute its’ currency or effectiveness within the organisation. Other nice-to-haves I would say are a Dispute Resolution Policy, Recruitment and Selection Policy and perhaps a Performance Management and Discipline Policy if this is not captured elsewhere like within an Agreement or Award.

There are three fundamental reasons for a policy to exist:

1. Legislative or industry compliance;
2. Mitigation of business risk; or
3. Enhancement of employee engagement and productivity.

Think carefully before being tempted to simply develop another policy – it is almost as problematic having too many policies as it is too few.

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