Keeping Up With the Times: Do Your Workplace Policies Need a Refresh
By Jori Hamilton
Image Source: Pexels
March 3 2021 - The business landscape is one of almost constant change. Particularly over the last couple of decades, the way companies approach everything from data usage to employee welfare has undergone some significant evolution. In the last year alone there's been a dramatic increase in the adoption of more flexible working practices - the positive effects on employee behavior and productivity have resulted in many businesses continuing this practice in the long term. As such, companies that remain static in their approaches to processes and policies can swiftly be left behind, or worse, become obsolete.
From a human resources (HR) perspective, one of the key areas you can make a difference across both the day-to-day and overall success of a business is ensuring that workplace policies are fit for this evolution. When the processes and policies fail to effectively align, this can lead to disruption and damage.
Let's take a moment to look a little closer at the role of policies in your workplace, and why you should refresh them.
The Importance of Policy
If the workplace is constantly evolving, to the extent that changes are frequently required, why have a set of policies at all? Apart from anything else, it prevents the workplace from devolving into chaos. By having a set of standards and protocols, you are first and foremost maintaining a safe and healthy workplace by clarifying what is expected of all members of staff. One of the positive results of having workplace policies in place is that they hold everyone in the business, regardless of seniority, to the same behavioral, ethical, and operational standards.
This leads us to the next reason why a set of policies is so important. They remove ambiguity. From a purely technical perspective, they help to highlight that a business is operating within the U.S. Department of Labor standards for issues such as wage rates and health and safety. When issues arise in the workplace - and, unfortunately, they will - documents that outline policies can be used as a reference. When produced correctly, a policy handbook details exactly what tasks, actions, and communications are required in any given situation in the workplace. There is no room for employees who breach these guidelines to argue that they were unaware of them or that they could be misinterpreted. This can be particularly vital when undertaking disciplinary procedures or handling complaints.
Perhaps the most important reason to have clear policies in place is that they are a vital tool for supporting all stakeholders of the business. Particularly for employees who rely on their job to make ends meet, it can be easy to feel powerless to respond when they feel that they've been treated unfairly, abused, or are even just uncertain about what their rights in the workplace are. A clear and robust set of policies gives employees all the information they need not just about what standards are, but where they can go for assistance when they need it.
The Imperative to Refresh
So, yes, it is important to have a robust set of policies in place. But, once you've spent time developing and implementing what you consider to be a great set of policies, why should you be open to making changes?
- Standards Change
It's uncomfortable to think about it, but some activities regularly occurred in workplaces less than a decade ago that we would consider toxic today. That's not to say that practices such as discrimination or abuse weren't always toxic, it's just as a society we're often very slow to acknowledge the damage and make changes. The development of workplace standards doesn't just involve the serious issues, either - professional tastes for dressing and presentation shift along with the times, and as such dress codes need to be cognizant of this. The world develops quickly, and failure to move with it can be disastrous.
- Risks Change
We know that policies help to maintain a safe and secure environment for your business and your employees. However, as the world changes, so do the potential sources of danger. Our ongoing embrace of technology and the omnipresent risk of cybercrime is a salient example here. Ransomware attacks don't just represent a single risk; they come in a variety of forms, each exploiting different vulnerabilities in our systems. These risk developments don't just come from external sources, either. As we change technology and the way we use it - like how many businesses have shifted to remote working during the pandemic - we are also changing the scope of risk. Regular policy reviews and updates can help adjust employee behavior, security practices, and preparations to better respond to these risks.
You should begin any adjustment by regularly undertaking a thorough review of your workplace and its policies. Gain an understanding of what has changed in the recent months in operations, attitudes, and even social circumstances. Identify which areas of current policies could clash with ideals, cause roadblocks to efficient operations, or negatively affect employees.
When changes are being considered, involve key stakeholders in the process. This should include leadership, human resources personnel, employees, and - where appropriate - union representatives. They will be able to give you not just opinions on the scope of the changes, but also key insights into how they might affect the company and its workers from a practical, emotional, and day-to-day operational perspective. Push for diversity in these meetings. A variety of cultural perspectives will ensure that your changes can meet everyone's needs.
If your policies are fully out of date or no longer fit for purpose, don't be afraid to start from scratch. Use a template document to make certain that you're considering all the key policy areas - safety standards, data and privacy, and workplace conduct among them. This allows you to build a set of policies for the ground up that is most appropriate for the individual needs of your business while making certain nothing slips through the net.
Your workplace policies are a vital tool to ensure that your business stays on the road to sustainable, meaningful success. However, it's important to remember that times change, and your policies need to reflect this. Take the time to regularly review the impact of change, and work with stakeholders to make adjustments that have the most positive impact.
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Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.