Do Your Supervisors Know…how to support your company policies?
By: Kyra Kudick
Publication: Employee Relations Management Today
Date Posted: 04/11/2017
Employers develop workplace policies not only to comply with regulatory requirements, but also to communicate expectations for behavior to employees. As a companion to the policies, companywide procedures are usually established to enforce them.
The people generally responsible for carrying out the necessary actions to enforce policies are front-line supervisors, but their understanding of policies and instruction on procedures is often insufficient.
This can lead to serious employee relations and compliance issues because having policies is not enough — without management support, employees can’t benefit from your policies. To garner proper management support for company policies, consider the following:
Be transparent about company goals, priorities
Generally, people find it easier to comply with rules when they understand the purpose for them.
Keep supervisors in the loop about company priorities and explain how current policies contribute to the success of those aims. To better represent the management viewpoint to the workforce, and answer employee questions about why a procedure or policy exists, supervisors must know some of the long-term goals of the company.
Include managers when developing policies
There might be times when HR representatives understand a legal requirement for a policy, but are not aware that a specific business area has a concern with the procedure used to implement it.
As such, you should consider creating a committee with management representatives from different parts of the company to make sure a variety of viewpoints are considered when crafting policies and procedures.
Another factor to consider is that while these managers are not the ultimate decision makers regarding policies, they are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of them. They might offer valuable insight into which policies and procedures could be better explained, or they might have ideas on better enforcement and discipline procedures.
To ensure that you get the most constructive input, you might want to invite participants to a brainstorming session away from the business premises and assure them that you are seeking candid feedback on the effectiveness of current policies. Sometimes an offsite meeting will inspire people to think outside of the way things have always been done at your company.
Communicate in plain language
If your policies are written in a way that employees would need a law degree to comprehend, they can’t help clarify rules and expectations in the workplace.
Polices should be written in layman’s terms and backed up with verbal reinforcement from managers and supervisors. While a complicated policy could still hold up in court, it’s best if it is clear enough to keep you out of the courtroom in the first place.
Create enforcement standards
Policies and procedures must be enforced, and setting standards for enforcement helps supervisors consistently apply discipline for infractions to the rules.
Discipline should be appropriate to the violation, and it can be helpful to create a system of progressive options ranging from a warning to termination.
Invest in ongoing training
There are many reasons that supervisors might not enforce policies consistently. Whatever the reason, company policies should not be deviated from unless there is a special circumstance. Otherwise, inconsistently applied policies can actually create legal risk instead of mitigating it.
Train your supervisors so they understand the importance of consistently applying the policies, and give them ample opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback about how policies (and their enforcement) are impacting the workforce.
Policies should not be set in stone. They should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they properly reflect current compliance requirements, your company goals, and the needs of your workforce.
This article was featured in the Employee Relations Management Today newsletter.
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