The Qualities of Great Company Policy
Company policies are the rules and regulations that make up the fabric of your work’s environment. It provides structure to the workplace, outlines best practices, and defines expectations in both the smallest and biggest of companies.
Sometimes this policy is an essential part of complying with rules and regulations imposed upon the organization by laws or governing authorities. It can provide crucial protection against hefty fines or legal repercussions. Other times company policy can be the result of a lesson learned the hard way or a collection of best practices used by the industry. But at what point do a company’s policies outgrow their usefulness and instead begin to hamper the organization?
The Right Amount of Policy to Have
A company with too much policy can become overly restrictive and prevent itself from being innovative or growing organically and sometimes policies can simply be asinine. However, a company with too little policy often results in unclear expectations, a lack of consistency, and mismanagement of company resources. It can also open the door for unethical behavior or illegal practices.
What is the right balance of company policy to have, and how should good company policy be formed?
Unfortunately, the answer varies from company to company. There is no one size fits all. A company must implement policies through due diligence and find the right amount of policy for their company needs. It’s generally not desirable to have too much policy or too little, but a company can thrive with either if they have chosen what the situation calls for, and if the policy is smart and well implemented.
Regardless of how much policy a company decides to use, the most important factor is what the policy actually is. How it affects your business, employees, and the company culture. I’ve looked at company policies now for years across many different industries and companies and I’ve learned a lot about what makes policies work or not. I’ve established a set of guidelines I found to be most important for creating smart and effective policies for any company.
The Qualities of Great Company Policy
1. Protects Against Unethical or Illegal Behavior
This is by far the most important aspect of creating company policies. Every organization must abide by the laws of our government. Many businesses are also regulated by other governing organizations that impose additional rules and regulations they must follow. The repercussions of breaking the law can be disastrous, resulting in enormous fines, closure of the business, or even prison sentences for offending employees of the company if found guilty.
Even when certain actions may not be illegal, unethical behavior exists in a gray area between the law and morals. Behavior that is unethical can have a largely negative impact upon the company even if no one has technically broken the law. A company should do everything in its power to implement policies that allow the company to practice business in accordance with the law and trains and monitors employees to behave ethically. Most importantly, a company that operates truthfully and dutifully is viewed very positively by employees and the public.
2. Benefits the Greater Good of the ENTIRE Organization
Far too often company policy is formed to prevent small occurrences of a specific situation without consideration for how the policy might affect the organization as a whole. Blanket policies as some like to call it. One great example of this is when companies form policy that attempts to curb unwanted employee behavior occurring from only a small number of employees.
For example, if a company offers flexible work schedules for employees but feels that some employees are abusing the flexibility by coming in too late and missing meetings, the company might create a policy that now says all employees must be in the office by 9 AM. The problem with policies like this is that usually only a small percentage of employees were causing the issue, but now everyone suffers. What about all the good employees who really loved the flexible work schedule that was ultimately taken away by only some 1-10% of the workplace?
Policies like this just end up creating a lot of frustration and wipe out much of the good for the sake of preventing a small issue. If issues are occurring on an irregular or minor basis, address those issues individually. Don’t just apply some standardized policy that will affect everyone and everything without first thinking it through and considering how the new policy will affect the business as a whole. Make your policy in the interest of the greater good for everyone!
3. Optimizes Efficiency in the Company
Good company policies should always be a collection of best practices and methodologies that lead to productive and efficient work environments. For example, policies could be made that align the company in accordance with the principles of LEAN management, Six Sigma, Scrum or Agile Project Management, or any other business philosophy that would serve the company well.
These policies contain the tried and true practices of the company’s industry or the lessons the company has learned over their years in business that help them operate better than the rest. If something works well for your business or industry, it’s great to make that an official part of the company and culture through policy.
4. Empowers Employees to be Productive and Happy
Company policies can make all the difference in the productiveness and happiness of your employees. Good company policies will empower your employees to be able to do their jobs without a hassle and allow them to reap the benefits of their efforts.
It’s probably not a shock to you, but I’m very pro-employee when it comes to business. I truly believe that happy employees do the best work or create the best experiences for customers. Fostering happy employees is an investment of time and money that many companies are unwilling to make, but there is just so much good that can come from it that it should not be ignored. Cutting costs and boosting profits is an essential part of any business, but integrate your employee’s happiness into that plan.
Good company policies are the opportunity to make your employees love your company and love working for you. It can be anything from flexible schedules, work from home opportunities, frequent reviews and raise opportunities, profit sharing, relevant training and mentoring, defined job roles, competitive pay, career development, or any number of positive things you can do to make employees feel happy.
Let your company policies show that you truly value your employees and that you’re invested in not only their skills and qualifications but their happiness as well.
5. Supports the Culture of the Company
A company’s culture is very important in today’s work environment. It’s not uncommon for employees to prefer a more compatible work culture than better pay or benefits in some cases. The culture goes beyond what an employee does at work and what they are compensated in exchange. It’s how work is done, how people interact. It’s how the business itself interacts with anyone whether it be customers, employees, or other businesses. Company culture is the mission of the company and the burning fire that keeps everyone going. It’s the minute to minute details of a work day that separate one business from another. It’s kind of a big deal!
The most important thing about company culture is that it’s consistent and stays true to the values of the company. As such, the company’s policies must support the company’s culture as well, otherwise, the culture becomes torn and troubled.
For example, if a company’s culture is supposed to be that communication is open and encouraged, it might appear odd if a company makes a policy that says employees must formally schedule meetings with their managers if they wish to speak with them. Why not have an open door policy instead?
Good company policy should always take the company’s culture into consideration and support it earnestly.
6. And One Last Thing…
The creation of good company policies should follow a few more general guidelines as well. The policy itself should be written in a clear and concise format. It should be easily understandable. It should not be vague or ambiguous. There should be no room for misinterpretation due to lack of clarity in the writing or implementation of the policy.
The policy should also be well thought out and implemented carefully and with precision. Policies should not be hastily made or created as a knee-jerk reaction to an event. It is important to take the time to critically think about a proposed policy and consider how it affects the company as a whole before being put into action.
Finally, good company policy is communicated well throughout the company. Even the best policies can ever be good if no one knows about them. Policy should be omnipresent in the organization by whatever means necessary. Publish policy in the employee handbook or company website. Include a discussion about policy in orientation and employee training. Monitor employees for adherence to the policy and make corrections where necessary. Be transparent with your company’s policy and let it flow throughout the organization.
Winning Big with Great Company Policy
Overall, a company’s policy is an area where the company can score a big win or loss depending on how they approach creating it, implementing it in their organization, and ensuring it is practiced going forward. Far too many companies operate poorly or foster unhappy employees because their company’s policies are just a mess. Some companies have too many policies that result in controlling, stagnant or dictator like environments. Other companies have too few policies that result in a lack of expectations and open the door for all sorts of undesirable or unethical behaviors. Some companies have great policies that are just not implemented or communicated throughout the organization well, while other companies have horrible policies that you make you wonder how anyone could have ever thought they were a good idea in the first place.
I hope that the guidelines I’ve discussed above can help you create or encourage good policy at your businesses or rework your company’s policies to be more consistent and beneficial for the company. Company policy is a tricky concept to implement masterfully, but it can certainly be done and the rewards are wonderful.
– Mr. Happy Work
I 100% agree with your point about not having policy that’s made just to punish a few people breaking the rules. I’ve seen it happen so many times throughout my career where a company starts some pretty awesome perk or workplace initiative and of course you immediately have some people who take advantage of it and abuse it. But instead of just taking it away from the people who are being jerks, the company usually takes it away for everyone. Not fair!
Yes! This was always something that drove me absolutely crazy. I remember one instance we had were the company starting purchasing free snacks for employees and asked us to be reasonable with what we took. Of course, you had a select few who had to just be jerks and take literally everything from the kitchens. Even something like 50 bananas, someone would take them all… The free snacks only lasted two months before the company just stopped doing it because of the complaints of the few jerks taking everything.