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Four Steps to Proactive Policy Communication

Updated: May 1

With winter driving season arriving, we often think about the preventative maintenance of our vehicles, understanding road conditions, and being aware of laws relating to driving. For organizations, our policies, and particularly the communication practices we use, are much like winter driving – we need to be proactive to ensure that we renew, review, share and communicate our policies with our employees – to get the best results and arrive at our destination safely.

Policies are the ground rules for how we expect the work within our operations to be performed and how we demonstrate that we comply with legislation. Policies define acceptable behaviour, steps to follow, and how a process or procedure flows. But more importantly policies communicate to our employees what is acceptable and how leadership fairly and consistently apply procedures. The way we communicate our policies helps to build relationships with our employees.

What could happen if we fail to communicate our policies?

There are significant risks if we just keep our policies locked away in a binder and do not openly share, remind, and answer questions about them for employees. Organizations are legally responsible to ensure that many policies, such as those relating to health and safety, are reviewed and approved annually and clearly communicated and posted for all employees. If we fail to do this, the organization, and individual managers could face orders from the Ministry of Labour, including fines and potential jail time if there is a serious breach of safety or the law.

Failing to inform employees of relevant policies or procedures and then trying to take disciplinary action for violations (even if they seem like common sense) can significantly damage relationships within the workplace, which can lead to lower productivity, staff turnover, increased absenteeism, and even unionization, all of which can impact the bottom line. When either legal or employee relationship damage occurs, this can impact the external reputation of your organization with current or future clients, vendors, partners, or potential employees.

Communicate your policies in four steps

How do we avoid the worst-case scenario? Be proactive. Just like scheduling a vehicle tune up or putting on your winter tires, you can proactively take care of your policies.

Do your pre-work: Make a list of which policies need to be created, reviewed, or re-communicated annually and what policies need to be refreshed. Think about this as an exercise in marketing your policies to your employees: define the compelling need for change or why you are communicating the policy, understand what help employees may need to comply with the policy, and determine who is responsible for the communication and the timeline.

Create your communication plan: Make sure that you are using multiple methods of communication, not just sending an email. Use all the avenues that you have available to you for sharing the message with your employees: town hall meetings, team meetings, one-on-ones with the supervisor, and yes even emailing a copy of the policy for their review. Perhaps consider video explanations that employees can access as needed.

Make sure that your employees understand the policy: This means providing training as required on new policies, a space to ask individual questions, creating Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents, and letting people know who to contact if they need more clarity, training, or support with the policy. Ensure that your supervisory team understands the policy and how to answer questions. Consider having employee champions of policies (like a health and safety representative) to have peer-to-peer conversations .

Don’t forget to document!: Document the communication plan, have copies of the communication materials, keep records of who attended the training sessions, and maintain employee signoffs of your policies. Should you ever run into an employee violating a policy, this will help with your conversations, coaching, and resultant action.

Our policies, much like speed limits, can change, and it is essential that we make sure that we are ready for those changes in a safe, proactive way. Actively and effectively communicating policies supports organizational success, while minimizing risk, reinforcing the respect and dignity of everyone involved, and ensuring that your organization is following the law.

If you’re not sure where your organization is at with your HR policies or functions, book time with an HR Advisor to chat about how we can help. We offer Health Check Packages for HR and Health & Safety (HRHS) and Communications (CHC) for any sized organization across Canada.

From the LIHR team and lead collaborator, Rebecca Wilkinson, BA, MA Ed., CHRP, CHRL

HR Consultant & Operations Manager at Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services

Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services

Book a meeting with Lisa here

Blog Photo by Jasper Garratt on Unsplash

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