Company policies

In all industries and sectors, every organisation must establish a set of rules and guidelines to assist in operations.

There are many types of policies, communicating everything from a series of actions that must be undertaken to a means for sharing principles of organisational culture and values.

What role do policies play in the workplace?

Policies play a vital role in covering what employees and the public can expect from an organisation, as well as what the business expects of its leaders, staff, customers or its members. They are a vital tool for driving performance from the board level down.

What makes a good company policy?

There may be multiple objectives of a policy. However, the first priority of the best company policies is clarity; policies must be written in easy-to-understand language. If a policy sets out behavioural expectations of employees, for example, it must simply describe the actions and processes to be executed in specific situations. Its intended users need to be able to understand what is expected of them in order to abide by those expectations. This is particularly important for new employees and board members, who will need to quickly pick up their responsibilities.

Being able to see how a group of policies interlink and are aligned with business strategy – such as how customer service relates to an organisation’s mission – is also important. Effective big-picture policies such as mission statements allow leadership to embed good practices and culture.

Good company policies lead everyone in an organisation to operate by the same principles, creating consistency across actions and processes internally, and across products and services externally. This consistency can support good rapport with customers, vendors and improve the perception of a brand by the general public.

A culture of accountability to standards of expected behaviour does need to be driven by leadership of an organisation, but the returns on that investment are palpable. A comprehensive set of policies helps to reduce risk in the workplace by outlining expected behaviour and compliance measures. The same policies are also useful for when things go wrong; policies can assist in legal disputes to reach fair outcomes. For this reason, a policy might where appropriate delineate the consequences to be taken if that policy’s expectations aren’t met.

What are some examples of company policies?

As mentioned above, there are a plethora of different kinds of policies to help an organisation function. Those regarding governance structure and procedures could include a corporate governance statement, risk management policy, board charter, shareholder communications policy and more.

Many policies might solely deal with procedural concerns. However, they can also codify an organisation’s stance on corporate social responsibility and relevant ethical issues. Such documents might note an organisation’s vision, values, describe its culture in a format accessible to all employees. Policies can do a lot in safeguarding issues of parity in a workforce, such as policies pertaining to anti-harassment and diversity.

Accidents are a part of life; occupational health and safety are a necessity for all organisations. Reducing risk of harm to employees is essential for fulfilling a duty of care, and a healthy and prosperous workforce makes for a prosperous business. By narrowing risk to employees, an organisation also avoids risk of reputational damage.

Other policies and procedures that are worthwhile incorporating into a set of policies are for:

  • Selling products and services

  • Customer service

  • Mental health and stress management

  • Workplace sustainability

Policy creation and oversight

The first step to establishing good company policies is to create a policy oversight and approval process. Leadership members need to form a clear line or team of authority to manage their implementation. This might be a number of representatives from different arms of the business, or it might be a single compliance officer. It is also vital that policies are created with the input of subject matter experts to ensure they are fit for purpose.

An approvals process must also be decided – varying in complexity depending on the organisation. Department heads, the legal team, the CEO or even the board may be need to provide approval. A timeline for a reviews process to examine a policy’s efficacy should also be drawn up from the beginning. Policies are best as living documents that change as the organisation does.

How to implement company policies

Effective implementation is as important as the content of the policy or procedure. Knowledge of a group of policies and their underlying goals allows for a better overall understanding. Holding all policy documents in a single system for easy access across different departments can improve consistency in language, their review systems, and formatting – thereby improving user experience.

How does your organisation communicate its policies with staff? Some questions to consider are:

  • Do your training procedures incorporate these policies?

  • Is there refresher training to keep these guidelines fresh and relevant for staff?

  • As organisations are required to be nimble and innovative, their policies must be, too. How are changes to these policies communicated?

AICD policy committees

For more information on our corporate governance policies and advisory committees, please click here.

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