Well thought-out and consistently administered policies are essential to your company’s success. They keep your department and your organization running efficiently, and provide guidelines for staying in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. As your company evolves, and as laws change, your policies will need to be updated and the changes communicated clearly to all your employees.
As a general guideline, you should conduct an annual review of all corporate policies to ensure that they meet your business needs and reflect current employment and benefits laws. Of course, monitoring and adhering to compliance deadlines should be done on an ongoing basis. Along with compliance-related policies, your annual inventory should assess internal guidelines and procedures, including such things as employee dress code, social media, technology and telephone use, corporate credit card use, flexible or remote work hours, vacation and personal time, and the like. Review your employee handbook, memos, and other written communications as well as any digital postings such as on your web site and corporate intranet.
As you proceed, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the policy legal, understandable, and enforceable as written?
- Does the policy best meet business and managerial needs?
For example, you may have a “summer hours” policy that provides for a shortened Friday workday; however, the needs of your business may be such that at least one person from the sales and IT departments must be in the office and reachable until 5 p.m. Your policy should specify this requirement. Or, your office may be “business casual” in terms of dress, except when clients are on site, when jackets and ties are more suitable. Again, this should be clarified. Not doing so lead to employee claims of unfair treatment.
Whether you’re changing an existing policy or establishing a new one, you should follow specific steps. First, draft the policy in conjunction with HR, management, and appropriate stakeholders within the company. For example, if you are establishing rules on the use of social media on company computers, you should engage IT leaders in the conversations. Similarly, if you’re making new rules about shipping personal packages from work, the mailroom or facilities managers should be involved. Next, have the policy reviewed by an employment attorney to make sure that it is legally enforceable and complies with all relevant laws.
When you are ready to implement the policy, communicate it in writing to all employees. You may certainly give a verbal heads up to your employees that a change is coming, but the official announcement should be in print, with email as a back-up. You should state the new policy, note the effective date, and outline the consequences for violating the policy if appropriate. You should also obtain written acknowledgement from all employees that they have received and read the new policy, similarly to the acknowledgement they signed when receiving your company handbook when they first started work.
Remember that people are often uncomfortable with change, especially when they are entrenched in certain workplace routines. Be sensitive to that fact, and allow for a learning curve. The formal written communication and employee signatures are in place as a protection for employers and employees alike, but don’t allow that to make the process of setting new policies an impersonal one. Be available to your employees to discuss the changes, and share some background as to why the changes were made if you feel it is appropriate.
Reviewing, drafting, and enforcing corporate policies may not be the most glamorous aspect of your job, but it is important. Strong corporate policy will keep your company running smoothly and protect you from the consequences of falling out of compliance with the law. For more information on HR and benefits management, including sample policies and a sample employee handbook, visit us online at HR360.com.