We’ve had to conform to social norms since the dawn of our existence. In the olden days, one could not survive without a community to share resources and offer protection. Like the tribes of our prehistoric ancestors, a modern-day company also hinges on a mutual agreement between members to put the good of the whole above individual gain.
When someone refuses to follow policies because they feel they are above the rules or they could stand to gain something from breaking them, that might not be the type of person you want in your office. However, more often than not, people break company rules because they don’t understand the purpose of policy and procedures. Full compliance doesn’t require breathing down each and every employee’s neck; often, all it takes is a simple explanation.
The Purpose of Policies and Procedures
When employees and management understand the purpose of policies and procedures, everyone benefits; policies and procedures aren’t just meant to protect the company, they also protect the people who work there. Policies dictate how discipline is handled, what constitutes fair treatment, how the hiring process works, what qualifies as a fireable offense, etc.
Understanding the purpose of policies and procedures allows employees to make informed decisions and provides them with a framework to address difficult situations.
Policies and Procedures Forward the Company’s Mission & Strategy
A company can claim to be XY and Z, but until they back those claims with action, we have no reason to believe them. That’s where policies and procedures come in; they’re how a company lives up to its word. A mission statement is the organization’s main purpose, what they are hoping to accomplish. Procedures are the way a company goes about doing business, how they accomplish what they set out to. Policies connect the two; they assure that the procedures support the company mission and strategy.
Communicate By: Getting Buy-in From Upper Management
No one respects a mission statement that doesn’t have buy-in from company leadership – why would they? In order for employees to see how policies and procedures further the mission and strategy, they need the support of upper-management. If the mission is embedded into policies and procedures and emphasized by managers, everyone will know that they are all working towards the same goal and why they are doing so.
Create a Positive, Respectful Workplace
While respect should be a given in the workplace, we can’t guarantee a respectful culture unless we have both clear guidelines and a way to enforce them. On the surface, a company dictating how we conduct ourselves may seem excessive, but every member of an organization, especially employees, benefits from a healthy company culture.
Just as policies build a more positive workplace, they can also protect against a toxic one. Without any rules, there would be no consequences for hostile behavior. Policies provide a route for employees to address their concerns with the company culture in real, tangible ways. If an employee witnesses wrongdoing, they can look to the company policies and procedures for guidance on how to handle the situation. However, without policies and procedures, there would be no method for stopping, disciplining, or even reporting malfeasance.
Communicate By: Involving Employees in the Process to Set Workplace Standards
A respectful work environment is only possible when employees are treated as valuable members of the organization, and if we value their opinions, they should have some say in the policies and procedures. Involving employees in setting workplace standards empowers workers to state their needs, bring up issues management may have overlooked, and improve engagement overall.
What’s more, employees can provide extremely useful insights for management when they are included in discussions around policy; it’s the employees who are most embedded in company culture, and no one knows what they need better than they do. Upper management could ask questions about how effective the employees view training, what they would change, if the rules make sense, etc., to understand their employee’s experience better.
Influence Employee Behavior
The business environment is volatile, and for a company to continue meeting its objectives in ethically sound ways, they have to ensure their policies and procedures are flexible enough to meet the rapidly changing needs of both the market and their employees. Part of this is ensuring all employees are equipped to make consistent, ethical decisions. When everyone is on the same page about dealing with a situation, they can react in predictable ways and prevent any accidental slip-ups. Of course, this is only possible if employees are given the resources they need. Policies and procedures lay out exactly how an employee should act based on the situation, removing any ambiguity around decision making.
The purpose of policy and procedures in this regard is to provide workers with the information they need to not only make decisions for the company, but also to make decisions about their own conduct. Without outlining acceptable behavior standards, employees could be blind-sighted by a disciplinary meeting, financial repercussions, or even a firing for rules they didn’t even know they broke.
Communicate By: Clarifying What Constitutes Misconduct & How it’s Treated
Employers can communicate this goal of policies and procedures by mapping out, in detail, what constitutes misconduct and how it’s treated. People deserve to know what happens when they do something against company policy; otherwise, they have no reason to follow it. By explaining what behavior is unacceptable and the repercussions for that behavior, employees can decide for themselves what they do.
Explicitly stating the rules and consequences also protects employees from unfair treatment by the company. Without a code of conduct, so to say, employers could penalize employees differently for the same crime. Policies guarantee that everyone gets fair treatment, protecting employees from discrimination and employers from lawsuits; it’s a win-win.
Improve Productivity & Performance
Another purpose of policy and procedures, especially of procedures, is to make work more efficient. Procedures describe how to accomplish a task in the best possible way, saving employees from using their valuable time and effort on less effective methods to achieve the same outcome.
Extreme pressure and impossible goals can drive good people to do bad things, which happens all too often when organizations prioritize performance over ethics. If upper-management emphasizes the importance of ethics over profits and supports that position through policies and procedures, employees won’t feel they need to sacrifice their morals to keep their job.
Communicate By: Sharing Your Reporting & Setting Goals Together
People feel more aligned with a goal when they have a role in setting it, and only the employee knows what is and isn’t realistic for them to accomplish. By making the goal-setting process more inclusive, the company can better set feasible objectives – ones they could reasonably accomplish.
Employers can also communicate the importance of policies and procedures for performance by sharing their reporting with employees. If the goal of a procedure is to improve efficiency or increase visibility, then showing employees the tangible results will prove that the procedure really works.
Meet Legal Compliance Standards
While the purpose of policy and procedures extends beyond the law, legal compliance is one of the most critical areas impacted. Noncompliance with government rules and regulations could land a company, and those working for it, in a world of hurt. Violations could lead to lost licenses, lawsuits, financial losses, audits, and the company’s dissolution in extreme cases. It only takes one bad decision to put a business in legal trouble, but the repercussions can be severe for everyone involved.
A lesser-discussed aspect of compliance policy is the protections it offers workers. A company can, and should, be penalized for unfair wages, wrongful terminations, or putting their employees at risk.
Communicate By: Explaining Legal Requirements & Repercussions
It’s unfair to punish someone for doing something they didn’t know was problematic, and the law is no exception. However, it’s not the government’s job to inform individual employees of the rules; it’s the company’s. By explaining the relevant legal requirements and the consequences for breaking them, employees can act with confidence, knowing they are not going against the law (and if they violate the law anyway, they at least knew the risks ahead of time).
Understanding the Purpose of Policy and Procedures With ComplianceBridge
Though the tendency to abide by social norms is deeply ingrained in us, for some reason, people still struggle to follow an organization’s policies and procedures. Part of this could be our own exceptionalism; we all want to believe that the rules don’t apply to us. Another theory on what drives people to go against policies and procedures is a rebellious itch, one that says the rules only exist to be broken – especially if there’s something to gain in breaking them. The last theory though, is likely the most accurate; that we break rules we consider to be unfounded and unfair.
The best way to combat non-compliance within an organization is to explain the purpose of policy and procedures; any rule, no matter how beneficial, can feel unfair when we don’t know the reasoning behind it. By explaining why these standards exist, employees can make sound decisions, act in ethical ways, and work more efficiently knowing there’s a method to the madness.
If you need a better way to communicate your policies and procedures, want to ensure you’re meeting legal requirements, or need a total policy overhaul, ComplianceBridge is here to help. TotalCompliance streamlines every stage of the policy life cycle, from policy creation to distribution and reporting. In our system, you even have the ability to have employees acknowledge new policies and procedures and test their comprehension.
Results from policy quizzes can be viewed in real-time before recipients have even finished answering all of the questions. With so much visibility into results, you can see which questions are giving employees the most trouble and where policy content may be unclear. With a robust policy management system on your side, you won’t need to go out of your way to ensure you’re effectively communicating the purpose of policy and procedures.
Interested in learning more about TotalCompliance? Request a demo today!