By Liezl van Zyl

Create policies that work

Plain language is not a plaster to stick over your gaping policy wound. Fix the cause, then write an epic policy in plain language.
Company policies are often created to tick a compliance box, then imposed on employees during induction, and never mentioned again. Until someone decides it’s time employees start following the policy and instructs the comms department to rewrite the policy in plain language because clearly nobody understands it (as though plain language is an editing exercise).

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you put some thought into it, good policies can

  • Support your strategy documents: like your vision, mission, and values statements.
  • Increase efficiency: An agreed way of working saves time, money, and energy. Good policies also help you draft sensible and practical procedures and standards.
  • Improve teamwork: When people know what their roles are, they get on with it.
  • Create culture: They describe how things should or should not be done in the organisation.
  • Protect everybody: value-based policies can protect the organization, customers, and employees.

That’s lovely, how do we write great company policies?

  1. Own the policy

The very definition of a waste of time and space, policies without owners are seldom implemented or updated.

  1. Find meaning

Policies are about changing behaviour. And the best way to change behaviour is to persuade people that something is important. Forget why the policy is important to you. Instead, ask why the policy is important to society, the company’s mission, the board, your customers, or the employees who must follow the policy. Align what you want with what they want.

  1. Plant seeds of change through engagement

Change is hard. When a policy demands change, people go through the five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, until they reach meaning.

The secret to skipping the grief is to involve people in the change and to convince them that it will be to their benefit. So, engage those who will be affected, early and often.

  1. Focus on who’s doing what

A good policy is made up of clear principles that advance the purpose of the policy. You create clarity by keeping it short and being clear about who is responsible for what. Think about how you write. For instance, the use of the passive voice removes the doer from the sentence and makes it very easy to shirk responsibility and nearly impossible to implement the policy.

  1. Assess the impact of the policy

Why are so many policies doomed to gathering dust in a corner of the intranet without ever being implemented? Usually, because the policy owner never assessed how the organisation will comply.

A policy is effectively implemented when you have empowered the people, designed the processes, and have the right infrastructure in place.

  1. Monitor and measure the policy

It’s a basic business truth – if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The same goes for policies.

Do you monitor whether the organisation is complying with the policy? Have you agreed how compliance will be measured? And do you take action when it turns out people are not complying?

Want to see how we do policies? 

Check out the great policies we created with Die MOS Inisiatief that proves policies don’t have to be boring!

Ready to start your own policy project? 

Get in touch!