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Top Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Policy Manual

September 02, 2016

An employee policy manual is an essential tool for effectively communicating policies, practices, and procedures and can help make the job of HR and management easier. Employees should be equipped with a working knowledge of the procedural guidelines for conduct, pay, benefits, and health and safety. This knowledge should protect both the employee and the organization from many of the potential problems encountered in the workplace, and can help mitigate risks associated with litigation.

A comprehensive employee policy manual will help answer many of the questions employees may have, foster a feeling of security in their roles, alleviate common workplace problems, and create a better working relationship between HR, management, and employees. However, your policy manual has to be written for maximum effectiveness and minimal confusion. HRdownloads has put together a list of the pitfalls to avoid when creating your manual.

Top 5 Policy Manual Mistakes to Avoid

Each business is unique and your policies and practices should reflect this.  Taking a policy from another company and rolling it out as your own can create more headaches than help.  It is important you review and revise your policy to fit your specific environment. For example, consider which employment groups your organization hires, what legislation is required and/or applicable, and whether your company has a collective agreement. Each item will influence the type of information you include in your manual. Using a specialized template that is specific to your jurisdiction, and has clear areas to fill in company specific information is a much more effective way to save time and energy on policy creation.

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2. Failing to consider how policies may be interpreted by others

It’s beneficial to have a working group assist you with the manual review to help you see grey areas. Take an overtime policy, for example; at minimum, policy writers must clarify what constitutes overtime, the number of hours that must be worked to achieve overtime, and what the compensation will be in the event overtime is worked. Ambiguous content may lead to costly results such as compliance violations, added compensation costs, or diminished employee relationships. What may make sense to you upon first glance may not always make sense to others; your working group can help you catch issues like this.  

3. Not considering financial organizational impacts

You need to ensure that you consider the financial or organizational impact of your decisions.  For example, if you decide that each employee will be allowed 10 paid personal days, what will the cost be for your company?  For 50 employees, paid at $15/hour and 8 hours per day, the organization is looking at an annual cost of $60,000.  Is that something the company can afford and maintain?   Understanding the financial impact of each policy and making sure parameters are in place to protect the organization are critical to the longevity and success of the policy manual.

4. Failing to communicate, train, and enforce

After you have developed, reviewed, revised, and finalized your policy manual you will still need to incorporate a few steps to ensure policies are understood and followed. Start with management training; management sets the expectations and commitments to workplace practices and must set an example for employees. Review the policies, answer questions, and discuss accountabilities.  Next, employees need to be trained and educated on the content of company policies. Finally, establish open communication, where employees are able to ask questions. This will help ensure that violations and incidents are kept to a minimum. Use coaching and progressive discipline to reinforce policies.

5. Not staying ahead of the game

Your policy manual must be up-to-date and reviewed at least annually since change is always occurring to laws, within companies, and to technology.  Consider breaking the review down into manageable sections.  For example, review part of your manual quarterly or monthly.  Or, have a different team or group such as your Health & Safety Committee help with the review. Keeping an eye on legislative changes, or using an organization that updates you on HR changes is essential to ensure that changes occur in a timely manner.

Final Thought

Policy manual creation is a big job, and a necessary one. If you give yourself the time to form a team and think through all the issues and angles, you will end up with a document that serves and protects your organization and your employees well. Take it slow, cover your bases from a legal perspective, work within your budget, use clear wording that outlines differences between employee groups, and review everything annually to remain up-to-date.

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