Compensation & Payroll
Changing Pay Days
Tips for Writing Policies
Q: I am training some managers to write a variety of employee policies. I would like to provide them with some guidelines on how to write an effective policy. What are some tips that I can give them?
A: Writing effective policies involves several basic steps and considerations. A critical first step is for the manager to have a clear vision of the policy's objectives. Those objectives should serve as a standard for evaluating each aspect of the policy.
With the purpose of the policy established, the manager can proceed with the following steps:
- State the purpose in the policy so that employees understand the employer's viewpoint.
- Plan and construct the policy to support the company's mission and to fit with the company's culture and other policies.
- Anticipate barriers to enforcement such as regulatory constraints or difficulties with tracking and monitoring employee behaviors relevant to the policy, and craft the policy in a way that accounts for those factors.
- State the rules and procedures of the policy, such as who the policy applies to, what must be done to comply, what is prohibited, any known exceptions, and the consequences of failing to comply.
Policies should be applied uniformly, but they can be written in a way that gives the manager some discretion when it is time to interpret and enforce the policy. For example, while an employer may have a policy on posting jobs internally, the company may wish to give managers discretion to skip this step if a candidate is readily available or if taking this step would unduly delay filling an urgently needed position. To allow for this, the policy should state that jobs will be posted at the manager's discretion.
In order to reduce employee resistance to a new policy, managers should write the policy from a positive viewpoint. If the tone of a policy pits managers against employees or seems punitive, the policy is unlikely to achieve the desired purpose.
As with most writing, the writer should leave the policy and return later to review and revise it with a fresher perspective. Further, if the manager can have a disinterested person review the policy and give feedback on how the policy looks to someone who is seeing it for the first time, the manager can make the policy more understandable.
Finally, an employer should have policies reviewed by an attorney before implementing them.
Article by Amy Maingault, SPHR, is an HR knowledge advisor in SHRM's HR Knowledge Center from http://www.shrm.org/kc/solutions/articles/archives/CMS_024040.asp#P-8_0