I’ve been forced to clear out my wardrobe. Like many women I love clothes, and have a large collection of shoes and bags to go with them. However, I got a surprise the other morning when I opened the wardrobe doors and a tiny moth flew out. This is something I’ve never experienced before, and to be honest, something I thought only happened to old ladies in the 1940s.
Following advice gleaned from the Internet, I’ve cleared everything out and scrubbed and scoured it within an inch of it’s existence. Apparently the average person wears less than 50% of the clothes they own, so this was my opportunity to do a ruthless cull. There’s something very satisfying and cleansing about getting rid of things we don’t need, and organising what we do in an orderly fashion.
Policies can suffer the same fate as my wardrobe – start off with the essentials, then just keep adding and adding, until in the end half the content is completely useless. Maybe sometimes we need a moth or two to pick holes to prompt us into action.
I know the joy of being that moth as I had the rare opportunity, during an organisational transfer, to pull apart a complete HR policy framework, which had become cumbersome and sporadic, and re-build it into something modern and streamlined. Call me “old hat” for getting excited about policy but I believe it will always be part of the bread and butter of HR. It’s not about producing a weighty and confusing tome to drop on someone’s foot if they step out of line. It’s about having a clear and succinct statement of the organisation’s culture.
So yes, I am a little bit proud to say I’ve established (and maintained) The Clear Policy Policy. It’s not a set of hard and fast rules, but my internal guidelines for the best policies and procedures I find. Yes there’s some pet hates in here, but having seen (and written) hundreds of the documents And can therefore spot a good or bad one at twenty paces.
The Clear Policy Policy
First of all don’t confuse policy and procedure. I keep the policy (the what and why) separate from the procedure (the how). What I hate to see is one masquerading as the other.
Next keep it short. Rambling and padding out have no place here. Only saying what is necessary, and no more, is practically my motto for life. Think succinct.
Its very important to me that all my writing has flow. A great procedure draws the reader through in a logical fashion. It doesn’t jump around or go round the houses before getting to the point.
Alongside a lack of flow, too much repetition is probably the most common policy blunder I come across. Say something once, and say it clearly.
Above all a policy needs to be understood. Jargon excludes, alienates and confuses. Acronyms and technical terms should only be included where justified, and explained fully.
Remembering the audience is important. I’m not talking about the ridiculous employee/manager/director responsibility bullet point lists that pepper far too many procedures. If a manager needs to be spoon fed in this manner they’re in the wrong job. Policies don’t exist in a HR service vacuum, which leads to my next point.
Consult. Widely. Not just with the Trade Unions and employee reps (in accordance with the procedure!) but with the managers who will operate it. They’ll offer a true perspective on how things will work in practice.
The best policies and procedures are built on a foundation of strong research. Whether it’s newly created or being updated, what are the best employers doing, inside and outside the sector? What are the options? What is the law? Don’t ever treat it as a tick box exercise. Think creatively.
Checklists, toolkits, frequently asked questions, and the like, are the saviour of the unclear procedure writer. If you must use them, for goodness sake just pick one and stick to it.
Finally, I know we’re in the digital age where all forms should be completed online etc, but if you require one completing please stick it in the appendix. People will thank you for it.
Maybe I’m teaching HR to suck eggs with this one but if nothing else it’s been cathartic for me! Hopefully, if nothing else, I’ll inspire someone else to have a good clear out.