HR policies are never going to be anyone’s favourite bed time read, but most organisations need to have at least some, so ditching them altogether isn’t really an option.
But if you want to foster a more progressive culture and a more forward-thinking approach to being an employer, and would, at the same time, like your policies to be read (and therefore more likely to be followed!), there are some interesting more progressive approaches you can take to documentation:
1. Consider who will be reading the policy and why
Taking this approach does help reduce unnecessary waffle. For example, a disciplinary policy is realistically going to be read by the person being disciplined and the person doing the discipline. Other people won’t read it, so having lots of well-meaning stuff about how to avoid a formal process is probably a bit pointless. That stuff might be useful elsewhere, but not in a disciplinary policy.
2. Consider design
A Word document full of lots of text might be functional but it’s not going to be attractive and easy to read. Coming up with much more visual documents is much easier than it used to be – you can incorporate colours, images and boxes or bubbles of text to highlight key points, and make policies you have much more likely to be read, and, if designed in line with your company brand, can feel much more a genuine part of the company’s culture and identity.
3. Consider language
If you’ve had policies and contracts for a while, and particularly if they were drafted by a lawyer, they may well be very dry, overly complex, and very conservative or restrictive, almost written with the assumption of the worst case scenario. Protection is good, but other than in very senior jobs, legal language can almost always be significantly reduced, in contracts and particularly in policies, which are not necessarily contractual.
User-friendly down-to-earth language is more likely to be read in the first place, easier to understand, and more likely to feel genuine and in line with your culture, if you have a progressive and transparent workplace.
Tony’s Chocolonely attracted attention a couple of years ago with a bright and cheerful one page employment contract that might be worth looking at for inspiration. There are obviously minimum standards you need to meet in terms of what you need to include, but it can be done briefly, creatively and engagingly.
4. Consider drastic reduction
Some high profile organisations have taken a progressively limited approach to documents – one fairly common example is having a dress code of “dress for your day”, or having a code of conduct along the lines of “be nice to everyone”. This can work really well, particularly if you have a good established and open culture. It doesn’t limit your ability to address problems – if something someone is wearing is not suitable for their day, such as a bikini to meet clients, you don’t need a specific rule saying so – and it can work very well in a small business.
5. Consider more policies
Having lots of HR policies doesn’t feel very progressive, it’s more common to want to get rid of them, but this is more about considering some new subjects for your company documents. Menopause, miscarriage, financial wellbeing and “right to switch off” are all hot topics for policies at the moment, or at least for information and awareness. You might also want a hybrid working policy now, which you may not have done until recently. At the same time, you might have policies you really don’t need any more and you shouldn’t be afraid to ditch them. A document no one ever reads does not add value.
HR policies don’t have to be just a tick box exercise, or an unnecessary evil. If you take a progressive and open-minded approach, and probably take some advice too, to make sure you’re protecting your business appropriately and achieving what you need, you can come up with policies that actively reflect your company and the culture you want to create, and become real living documents that are read, used and followed. If you’d like some advice on progressive approaches to HR policies, do get in touch.