Policy Schmolicy

When you write a policy, you probably do so because someone somewhere wants to manage risk and protect the people itā€™s aimed at. Despite this noble intent, many flinch when a newĀ policyĀ is announced because they think that yet another cherished freedom is under attack.

ItĀ doesn’tĀ have to be this way. Policies can empower. They can liberate. They can enrich. And they can make you feel a whole lot better. Thatā€™s because they tend to provide clarity around what is acceptable and whatĀ isn’t. This clarity removes doubt and fear that can otherwise stifle an individualā€™s personal and professional development as well as cripple the organisations they work for, by blocking innovation and collaboration, and encouraging risk aversion, inertia and even withdrawal.

To be effective a policy has to make sense and land well with the intended audience. The ā€˜whatā€™s in it for meā€™ question must be addressed right up front. ā€œFailure to comply with this policy could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissalā€ just doesnā€™t cut the mustard.

Thatā€™s a bit like telling people they are lucky to have a job when they submit an idea to improve the conditions they work in.

With words like ā€˜complianceā€™, ā€˜disciplineā€™, ā€˜conflictā€™, ā€˜declarationā€™, ā€˜grievanceā€™, ā€˜enforcementā€™, ā€˜monitoringā€™ and ā€˜unauthorisedā€™, the language around policies is littered with negativity.

I promise you thereā€™s at least a glimmer of positivity in every policy and a shed load in most, so stop focussing on the doom and gloom and bring out the positives. Demonstrate how the policy will liberate you to get out there and sell more stuff, build better products, provide even better support to your customers and even maybe encourage you to evangelise about the great company you work for.

Given that most policies fly out of Legal, Finance, Internal Audit and HR it may be too much to expect the language within to ensure a smooth landing with the intended audience. This is where Internal Communications should take over the controls, ease back on the throttle, and bring the plane in safely.

The next question is do they really have to be so damned prescriptive?