Rules are an integral part of society, they help define the boundaries of who we are and what we can do. Somewhere along the line, rules have become more of a societal term while the term policies has come to define rules for organizations and governmental organizations. Policies are as varied as they are important, and eventually it becomes necessary to write new ones, which can be a challenge.
Below are six things to consider when developing your next policy.
- You need a policy for policies – This sounds a little weird, but in order to draft effective policies, you should first draft a policy on drafting policies. It doesn’t have to be long, but should cover when and why a new policy is needed; the format to use; and the policy for drafting and approval of new policies.
- Does your planned policy already exist? – Before you go spending time on drafting a completely new policy, you should first check and see if any existing policies cover what you’re planning to write about, or if they cover some aspects. If they do, instead of creating a new policy, it’s much easier to update existing ones.
- Consider the need – If someone does something you don’t like or agree with, don’t simply go and create a new policy out of spite, or as a knee-jerk reaction. If you find yourself doing this, take a step back and let the policy sit for a few days or weeks and revisit the issue to see if it is really necessary. If you deem it significant enough, get input from colleagues. They may offer valuable help, or have other ideas. The goal with policies is that there should be a crystal clear need for them, or a clear problem to solve.
- Make the policy understandable – Have you ever read policies enacted by governments or large companies? Of course you have, but how much did you understand? If you aren’t a lawyer, there is likely some parts you don’t understand. You should make your policies understandable and readable by everyone in the company. Leave legal language to the lawyers, and clearly define any and all acronyms and jargon. Beyond that, the use of modal verbs and positions instead of names is highly encouraged.
- Include exceptions – Rules set in stone will often be broken. When writing a policy, it is a good idea to include exceptions whenever possible. If you don’t include these yet constantly make them in practice, you’re undermining the policy. If you find these exceptions become relevant in the future, update the policy to include them.
- Be flexible – You should write some wiggle room in the policies. If you have an ironclad policy employees will come to rely on it, and if something happens what goes against the policy, they could use the ‘it’s company policy’ line as an excuse not to take the right action. The common trend is that new policies essentially provide the guidelines for empowerment.
If you take steps to ensure the policy is as comprehensive as possible, and your employees understand each and every aspect of it, they will be more than likely to follow it. Do you have any other tips on writing policies? Let us know.