4 elements every good policy needs to include

4 elements every good policy needs to include
Photo: Kasia Bialasiewicz, BS

Ah, policies! Such a fun topic, right? Well, maybe not. Policies and procedures might not be the most exciting topic in the world, but they are one of the most important. Having a good policy in place keeps everything clear for you, your employees, and your customers. It’s easy to refer to a policy and make a straight decision, much easier than it is to try and consider, then justify, each and every decision your business has to make.

Having a policy to refer to is a great way to ensure your employees always make the right choice. It also means this choice can happen without the employee wasting time in seeking management and asking them about each decision.

There’s one thing you need to remember with policies – they need to be clear and set exact outlines that cover each situation. A policy which could give a few different solutions isn’t useful. Likewise, you have to be vigilant about what a policy should actually do. There have been many situations already where a policy has had bad, unintended consequences. These are the steps that you have to cover BEFORE policy creation, although a good policy provider could certainly help you with these decisions if required.

So what makes a good policy?

#1. Being easy to understand

The most important thing about a good policy is that it’s easy to understand. Long-winded writing filled with legal jargon is tough to read, let alone understand. How can an employee follow a policy without understanding it? They can’t, and they might even misunderstand it, which could cause the wrong decision entirely!

Using simple language and communicating clearly are vital features that any good policy must incorporate. The entire point is to keep your employees informed and give them procedures to follow, not confuse them. A good test for this is to check whether a new employee can immediately understand the policy. If they can understand it on day one, it should be fair to say your other employees will be fine too.

#2. Clear establishment of situations

The second key element of a good policy is that it’s very clear cut in what it means. Each situation an employee might need to deal with should be clearly marked in an index or similar area. Instructions after this should be clear and should cover all details.

Once again the key is to get your methods implemented properly. A good way to do this is proofread the policy, or better still, get somebody else to proofread. This way you can catch any areas where you might have missed something, misworded the instructions, or even just forgotten to add. It can happen to anyone, though the solution is fortunately quite simple.

It’s a good idea to brainstorm different situations covered by your policy too. Use group sessions and meetings, or 1 on 1 situations, and do this more than once to get a wide spread of situations. Again, this is something you should be covering before policy creation, to keep editing minimal.

#3. Being accessible

Access to a policy is needed for clear reasons. If your employees can’t access the policy, they’re going to struggle to follow it. In todays world policy creation is usually done digitally, and digital copies make it much easier to circulate and keep nearby. Ensure your employees know where your policies can be viewed and that they have ready access. It’s one of the most important points in keeping everything flowing smoothly.

If you have multiple policies, try to simplify this for employees too. One method is only giving access to policies that actually apply to that employee. Another is clear labelling which further helps the employee to find what they’re looking for.

#4. Being adaptable

The modern age moves fast and a policy has to be able to keep up with these changes to stay effective and relevant. One great solution in this area has been policy management software. Technology has given us the ability to quickly and easily handle even multiple policy documents, and make edits and updates at will. Good software also helps you to keep the relevant policies available for different types of employee without cluttering them or requiring them to search through a catalogue of policies manually.