How to Develop a Company Policy
6 Workplace Situations That Require You to Create a New Company Policy
Identify the Need for a Policy
You want to have the necessary policies and procedures in place to ensure a safe, organized, convivial, empowering, nondiscriminatory workplace. Yet, you do not want to write a policy for every exception to accepted and expected behavior. Policy development is for the many employees not for the few exceptions.
You don't want to create a hoard of policies that control the actions of your many employees—when all you really need are sufficient policies to control the actions of a few.
Consequently, you do not want to create policies for every contingency, thus allowing very little management latitude in addressing individual employee needs. Conversely, you want to have the needed policies, so that employees never feel as if they reside in a free-for-all environment of favoritism and unfair treatment.
If you have too many policies are provided, you also increase the likelihood that your managers will apply them unequally and unfairly. You increase the need to develop guidelines and communication tools to ensure that policies are fair, consistently applied, and well-managed.
You need to strike a healthy balance when you develop a new company policy. For the most part, you will not need to develop a new company policy as long as you address the employees who are behaving in ways that are inappropriate to your workplace.
These ten steps will take you from determining the need for a policy through distributing and integrating a policy.
Check Out These Guidelines to See if a Policy Is Needed
For each of the reasons provided about why a policy might be necessary, examples of the policies that might fall into that category of need for a policy are provided. A policy is necessary:
- if the actions of employees indicate confusion about the most appropriate way to behave (dress codes, email, and Internet policies, smartphone use),
- if guidance is needed about the most suitable way to handle various situations (standards of conduct, travel expenditures, purchase of company merchandise),
- when needed to protect the company legally (consistent investigation of charges of harassment, nondiscriminatory hiring, and promotion),
- to keep the company in compliance with governmental policies and laws (FMLA, ADA, EEOC, minimum wage),
- to establish consistent work standards, rules, and regulations (progressive discipline, safety rules, break rules, smoking rules), and
- to provide consistent and fair treatment for employees (benefits eligibility, paid time off, tuition assistance, bereavement time, jury duty).
There may be other reasons, additionally, for why you will want to develop a policy. Remember, though, that one employee's poor behavior should not require a policy that will affect all other employees.
Articulate the Goal of the Policy
Once you've determined that a policy is necessary, determine the goal you want to accomplish in writing the particular policy. When possible, you will want to tell employees why you are implementing the policy.
You need enough details in the policy to make the company's position clear, yet you can never hope to cover every potential situation addressed by the policy.
Consequently, the goal with a policy is short and simple. Recognize that this may not be possible with policies about areas such as the company's approach to the Family Medical and Leave Act, discrimination or complaint investigation, or the progressive discipline system.
But, how much can you really say about driving while talking on a smartphone? So, use common sense as you determine the outcome you want from your policy.
This section of TheBalance.com provides sample policies as do many other websites, albeit other companies frequently charge for their policies. Even websites that charge, provide free samples so you can test their policies.
You will have trouble finding a sample policy that is exactly right for your company circumstances, language, and culture. But, research online and find sample policies to provide a base for revising sample policies rather than writing your policy from scratch.
You can also subscribe to a service that provides samples such as HR policies and examples. External policy sources are also provided in this policy samples directory. Finally, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) provides policy samples for members.
In some cases, you may even want to talk with your employment law attorney. Law firms write generic policies for their clients that you can also customize to your needs. Especially when a new law passes or the Department of Labor issues new rules, your attorney is likely to develop an accompanying policy.
Develop and Write the Policy
With goals and samples in hand, write the policy using simple words and concepts. Speak directly to the people who will be reading, enforcing, and living by the policy.
After each paragraph, ask yourself "what if" questions to make certain the policy is covering the basics and the normal exceptions and questions.
Do not obsess over this, however; as stated, no policy ever covers every possible contingency.
Review the Policy
Select several employees, or even a small pilot group, to read the policy and ask any questions they might have about the policy. This review provides feedback that employees will be able to understand and follow the policy.
Rewrite the policy based on the feedback.
Obtain Management Support for the Policy
Review the policy with the managers who will have to lead and put into effect the policy. You will want to have their support and ownership of the policy. You will have started this process much earlier, even as early as when you identified the need for the policy, but management support as you implement the policy is crucial.
Obtain Legal Review of the Policy
If the policy has legal implications, is litigious by its nature, has personal implications for employees (such as security procedures), you will want to have your attorney review the policy before you distribute the policy further.
Make sure you communicate to your attorney that you do not want the policy rewritten in legalese. You want the policy reviewed for legal implications and appropriate wording.
Implement the Policy
In small groups, individually, or in a company meeting, depending generally on the controversial nature of the policy and the ease with which it will be understood, distribute and review the new policy. Give the employees a chance to ask questions.
The policy should always consist of the policy on a piece of paper with the employee sign off on a second sheet.
Employees can sign off that they have received and understand the policy, yet retain a copy for their own files.
Sample Policy Sign Off Statement
This is a sample signoff statement to use:
I acknowledge receipt of and understanding of the (Your Company) Policy. The policy is effective (Date) until further notice.
Employee Name (Please Print)
Decide How You Will Communicate the Policy in the Future
Some companies place policies in their intranet or in a policy folder on the computer network's common drive. Determine whether you will want to distribute the policy by additional methods.
You will also want to archive and date former policies that this policy replaces. You may need them for legal or another reference in the future.
Interpret and Integrate the Policy
No matter what you write in the policy, your later policy application and work practices will determine the real meaning of the policy. Think consistent and fair as you interpret the policy over time.
When you find your practices differing from the written policy, it is time to review and rewrite the policy and the cycle starts again.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.