Workplace culture: How policies & procedures fit in

The workplace in 2016 is an interesting beast.

As employers seek to build better, stronger, more profitable businesses, attention has shifted towards employee retention. With more and more data emerging about the costs of firing, hiring and training, the ‘everyone is replaceable’ attitude of a post-GFC world is well and truly behind us.

As a result, almost every journalist and blogger covering the topic of HR these days is focused on what could uncharitably called ‘touchy-feely’ subjects. Mindfulness. Wellness. Culture. Inclusiveness. If you were to base your understanding of HR on what’s being written these days, you could be forgiven for thinking the role of HR in 2016 is to build meditation spaces, create nutritionally balanced lunches and set office-wide FitBit challenges.

Of course, there’s plenty more to HR, especially in 2016. It’s not quite as sexy as, say, creating a zen garden in a disused supply closet, but the development and implementation of solid policies and procedures is something that will contribute directly to the health, happiness and engagement levels of your workforce.

In the cultural exploration journey we’ve been undertaking here at Ento over the last few months, it’s become rather apparent that our lack of P&P documentation is something that may trip us up as we grow. As with defining our culture, and refining our onboarding, getting our policies and procedures documented is crucial as we take on more and more staff.

At the moment, we’re slowly working our way documenting each of our policies, and their associated procedures. If you’re interested in doing the same, but have no idea where to start, here’s what you need to know.

Know what policies you’re going to document

There are a number of policies that will apply to almost every workplace, as well as some that will be very specific to your business. There are any number of resources online that can give you a sense of what’s standard (Business Victoria, for example, has a P&P template with a fairly comprehensive list of standard policies, which you can download here).

Keep in mind that you already have policies and procedures – you just haven’t documented them. Take some time to think about the unspoken, undocumented rules and processes you and your team already adhere to.

After some deliberation, here’s what we decided we needed to document:

  • Code of conduct
  • Leave policy
  • Work hours (inc. work from home)
  • Paid training benefits
  • Performance review structure
  • Bonus / incentives
  • End of month planning & reporting
  • Recruiting
  • Onboarding
  • Offboarding
  • Feature release
  • Hardware, shopping & small stuff
  • Other perks (book requests, food, etc)

Know your legal obligations

You can spend all the time in the world writing your policies and procedures, but if they contradict your workplace agreements, or violate your legal obligations as stated by the government, you’re wasting your time.

Spend some time assessing your legal obligations for each policy you’re planning to develop. Do this by looking carefully through the various contracts/workplace agreements your team have signed, as well as any relevant legislation.

For Australians, you’ll need to cross-reference any policies you develop with the information on the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Australia websites, which will help you understand the standards that all employers in Australia are expected to adhere to.

Know the industry standard

Imagine the following scenario.

You’re looking for a new staff member to join your business, and you find the perfect candidate, with the qualifications and experience you’re looking for, and a personality that is an excellent fit for your current team.

You interview this person, and offer them a role within your business. After a few days deliberation, they call you to decline. See, one of your competitors is after them as well, and they can offer more days of annual leave, as well as free lunches, an allowance towards further training, and the opportunity to work from home.

And you? You’re just offering the bare minimum, as decreed by the the FWC.

In 2016, smart businesses know that great talent is a finite resource, and you’re never going to attract the best with policies that fall below the standards your competitors are offering.

Know what you’re already doing

When you begin the process of documenting your policies and procedures, you’ll likely find a host of templates and examples online. There’s a good chance that you’ll be tempted to just copy some of these examples verbatim.

That, however, is not something you should do. In fact, it’s a pretty great way to be on the back foot with your employees.

As I mentioned earlier, you already have policies and procedures – systems and rules people in your organisation adhere to. And it’s those systems that should inform your documented policies and procedures.

Let’s say, for example, you currently have an unspoken rule that employees can dress casually at work, unless they’re meeting with a client. If, all of the sudden you implement a policy that requires corporate wear, simply because that’s what you’ve seen online, you’re going to have a team of very confused, very annoyed employees.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to make sure that the policies and procedures you develop are specific to your workplace, and relevant to your culture.

We’re still working on developing our policies and procedures at Ento, but when we’re done, we’ll share them with you right here. We think it’s important for businesses to embrace transparency and share their knowledge – because at the end of the day, it makes all of us better, smarter and more productive.

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