Manage HR Policies

Implement priority policies successfully by writing them well, communicating them effectively, and enforcing them consistently.

Last Revised: January 31, 2012


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Your Challenge

  • HR professionals know that they need HR policies; however, they often don’t think through which policies they need.
  • In an attempt to protect from litigation, HR departments tend to engage in policy overkill, which can be just as detrimental as not having enough policies.
  • Determining which policies an organization really needs and updating them seems like an overwhelming task; therefore, HR departments tend to keep the same legacy policies for many years. As a result, most organizations have out-of-date policies.
  • Many HR policies are written in an overly complicated way – they are full of legalese and use too many words.
  • About 50% of managers agree that they don’t know where HR policies are stored and don’t think that they should be involved in enforcing HR policies.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Regardless of an organization’s history of appropriate behavior, all organizations require priority policies to protect against risky and destructive employee actions.
  • Without specific policies in place, the organization is more vulnerable to workplace harassment, bullying, and violence.
  • Having the wrong policies or poorly written policies is risky from a legal and cost perspective. Policy violations create errors to be fixed, employee stress, and low morale. Management time is wasted clarifying rules and dealing with violations.
  • Organizations should consider converting their low risk policies to guidelines to increase manager and employee empowerment and reduce administrative burden.
  • Misalignment with organizational culture has the highest negative impact on policy effectiveness. In writing and revising policies, organizations must ensure that the policies that exist, as well as how they are written, align with the culture.

Impact and Result

  • The best way for organizations to protect themselves against litigation is to have all of the necessary priority policies in place, to write them well, communicate them effectively, and to enforce them consistently.  
  • When organizations strike the balance between over and under-regulation, employees and managers are more engaged and secure.
  • Well written policies communicate organizational culture, give managers information on how to respond to a range of situations, and curb litigation since employees are better equipped to be in compliance with laws and regulations.
  • When policies are communicated well and enforced consistently, employees are clear on what the organization values and what is expected of them. They understand their boundaries and have no excuse for violations.

Contributors

  • Hannah Barkley, Human Resources Manager, Ross Video
  • Sherry Adams, Executive Director of HR, City of Brampton
  • Tammy Osborne, Human Resources Generalist, Safran Electronics Canada
  • Martha McIver, VP Canada Human Resources, CBRE Canada
  • Mark Steurer, HR Director, Home Sales Company Inc.

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Get to Action

Best Practices Toolkit

  1. Determine which policies the organization needs

    Get the right set of HR policies to cover the organization from a legal perspective, but also to avoid policy overkill.

  2. Learn how to write policies effectively or revise existing policies

    Ensure employees understand organizational policies.

  3. Effectively communicate and enforce HR policies

    Ensure employees know which policies exist, where to find them, and the consequences of violating them.

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