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Policies: Everything you need to know

Memory Nguwi
POLICIES are principles or standards that members of an organisation must follow. Often these principles are aligned to the organisation’s vision and mission. They are largely influenced by industry practices and statutory obligations in some cases.

I assess that most organisations have poorly structured policies that do not support the business. In some instances, there are no policies at all. As long as you employ a sizeable number of people, it would help if you had Human Resources (HR) policies. I cannot imagine a credible organisation running without Human Resources policies.

The structure of the HR policies matter as it tends to affect the effectiveness of the policies. I see organisations make mistakes by not separating essential policy principles from procedures. The right way to go is for your policy principles to be separate from procedures. The policies address the “what”, and the procedures with the “how”.

I see that policies are short on good policy principles and lack structured procedures in many instances. These two critical shortcomings can be addressed if knowledgeable people handle the process for developing HR policies.

One other important aspect to note is that you should always separate your HR Policies and Procedures manual from your Employee/Staff Handbook. The HR Policies and Procedures manual are written for the managers and supervisors (policy implementers). The Staff Handbook is for every employee where the employer highlights the key policies and how employees can comply with these policies. Before drafting the Staff Handbook, you should finalise your policies and procedures manual. The Staff Handbook is a by-product of the HR Policies and Procedures Manual.

The HR Policies and Procedures manual offer managers guidelines on what policies matter to the business and how to implement such policies.

This can bring consistency and equity in how the organisation handles employees. It helps to bring equity in how the various units of the business address HR issues.

This is why the HR Policies and Procedures manual need to be detailed and comprehensive, covering the whole human resources value chain. The HR Policies and Procedures have restrictive distribution to managers and supervisors, while the staff handbook is distributed to all employees including managers and supervisors. The staff handbook addresses employees’ issues directly. It is written to and for the employee. Sometimes it is written using less formal language to make it more exciting for employees when they read the handbook. The fact that the two documents have two distinct audiences means they cannot substitute for each other.

The employee handbook should not contain substantial details, including reasons behind each policy. Instead, they should give enough information to allow the employee to do their job and comply with the policies.

The HR Policies and Procedures are deliberately detailed with detailed procedures. Managers use it as a roadmap for managing day to day human resources issues. The key issues addressed by the HR Policies and Procedures Manual are; why, how and when? What is key is that both documents must speak to the same issues consistently.

Here are the key points to take note of as you prepare the two documents:

  • The two documents must reflect the key business priorities as they affect human resources;
  • Do your research before you start writing the documents; explore what has been working and explore which policies impact the business positively;
  • Ensure all the policies comply with all statutory provisions;
  • When sharing your policies after being designed or reviewed by an expert, use a consultative approach;
  • Do not bring irrelevant policies to the business; those that do not address your business concerns;
  • Each policy must have; a policy definition, purpose, key policy principles, responsibilities and application scope. Once these have been covered, you can prepare the accompanying procedures for the policy;
  • Identify the audience of each document in the introduction; HR Policies and Procedures (for Managers and Supervisors) and Staff Handbook (Every employee); and
  • If you are doing a major revamp of your policies, you may start with a detailed market practices survey. Remember the policies must help you manage your human resources for the benefit of your business.

Some of the core policies that you would need to prepare with sound practices are:

  • Talent Management Policy
  • Gender Policy
  • Performance management policy
  • Recruitment policy
  • Remuneration policy

Lean on scientific evidence to get the best outcome as you prepare your policies. Boston Consulting’s study shows which areas of HR produce the best impact on business performance. As you prepare your policies, focus on these; prioritise these areas.

From the same study, the least impactful areas are as follows:

  • Transforming HR into a strategic partner
  • Health and security management
  • Managing flexibility and labour costs
  • Restructuring the organisation
  • Managing work-life balance
  • Managing an ageing workforce (this one resulted in a reduction in revenue growth).

Remember, you cannot have a policy on every area of HR. Focus on those areas that will give the organisation measurable value and competitive advantage. Drafting HR Policies needs to be done well to benefit the business. So far, my assessment is it is poorly done in most organisations leading to employees resenting the policies.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. — ipcconsultants.com.

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