So I found myself a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn about the use of uniform policies and this guy wrote something along the lines of ..
We work with adults, treat them like adults we don’t need a uniform policy!
Then plenty of others went on to put in their thoughts cheering him on saying “yeah you just need to have a conversation”. Then I came along and rained on everyone’s parade, then the policy police were brought up and then I decided to step away before I said something foolish on social media.
I feel we look at policy the wrong way because we have built this HR rule book feel as a profession. It’s the brand of like HR walking around looking for what people have done wrong and citing the policy. That’s not what I do for a living, no way! But there was a period of time where this was the perceived image of HR – they were the policy police, smacking people for being naughty. So as we emerge from the dark ages and into the dawn of the conversation and HR being more than a compliance team, let’s not be ignorant and let’s think about what policy implementation has taught us.
3 things that we have learned about policy include:
- if all you are good for is reciting policy then your career has an expiry date;
- if you smack people with policy they really wont like you, their manager or the business; and
- policy is kind of essential to keep you out of court and ensure messages are clear.
Businesses are communities, and like any community there are rules you are expected to follow to be part of it.
Think of the communities you belong to whether it be your family, a sport team or a volunteer group. There are expected standards of behaviour of how you will treat each other.
Sometimes we mess up, someone has a conversation with us to see what the hell we were thinking. Sometimes we really make a mess of things, get a talking to and face the consequences. Same goes for at work.
However work has the high stakes of finance, health and safety and legal obligations, so it makes sense to have some kind of documentation to ensure we are on the same page.
So, what does this mean for you as a HR practitioner or line manager? It means we need to respect the policy and treat it like insurance. It’s purpose is a communication tool to share what is expected from people. It serves as a point of reference when an employee claims “they were never told” or “I don’t understand what you mean”.
Have the conversation using the policy to get your facts right, and really, if it escalates then we can start having the tough conversations, that might include, yes a policy reference.