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How to Implement Policies Around Communication

Company policies are essential for keeping your operations consistent and functional. Without clear sets of procedures for every aspect of your business, things start to fall apart relatively quickly. Your policies project the intentions of your company, its values, and its ethics. They also serve to make certain that every action taken by employees — from the day-to-day activities to the decisions that affect long-term trajectory — is positive and in keeping with the needs of everyone involved.

However, when your policies are not well explained, they may as well not exist. There are also going to be times when not everybody who works for your company necessarily agrees with your policy decisions. After all, part of having a valuable and diverse workforce involves embracing workers whose opinions will occasionally differ from yours. That doesn't mean to say that they should be unilaterally ignoring the best practices, though — you're implementing these policies for good reason. The key to overcome both of these challenges is through building effective protocols around communicating about your policies.

Formalize the Policies

Ambiguity is the enemy of any workplace policy. The more specific you can be in your communications, the better able your employees will be to understand and implement them accordingly. As such, among the most important communicative steps you have to take with respect to your policies, is making sure they are formalized via thorough documentation.

Producing and regularly updating a comprehensive employee handbook is key here. This should include some of the basic workplace policies — disciplinary procedures, workplace safety rules, and hours of service among them. As offices become more technologically dependent, you may also want to include guidelines on personal device use and data protection. Whatever policies you include in the handbook, it is important to provide clear detail. Use straightforward language but don't leave any aspect of these protocols to be assumed. Your employees should be able to understand precisely what the policy is when they read it.

However, you can't simply formalize your policies and leave them to be followed. You have to make efforts to ensure that the documentation is accessible at all times wherever the employee might need them. So, alongside providing hard copies, you should also make links to them on the company intranet or cloud platforms. It is also vital that you keep employees informed whenever there are changes, and have them confirm that they have read them and understood them.

Clarify the Purpose

When frictions arise surrounding policy decisions, often it is the case that those policies are just not fully understood by employees or they don't see how they impact the customers they work with. Perhaps the worst approach you can take when communicating best practices and new protocols to your workers is to take a dictatorial approach. You may feel as though the fact that you consider the changes to be important should be enough to assume compliance, but this only serves to further alienate workers, and your policies are unlikely to be followed.

Instead, you should seek to provide clarity about your policies from the earliest opportunity. This is often a natural aspect of good policy planning, particularly in new information technology (IT) infrastructure protocols. When making plans prior to implementation, there's usually an imperative to establish a clear set of goals that the policies are designed to achieve — the impact on the business, what tools are being utilized, how the team is involved. This information should be used to help employees better understand the reasoning behind infrastructure or process changes, and how their actions affect its success.

In essence, this is about treating your employees with respect and appreciating their intelligence. You can more effectively get them on board the implementation process by helping them to understand the change better. They gain some context about how the business operates and their place within it, which empowers them to make better, more responsible, independent decisions in their day-to-day functioning in line with the policies. With new workers, too, explaining the reasoning behind the protocols being implemented can help them to settle in easier as they understand a little more about the business.

Keep Workers Involved

Successful implementation of new policies is always dependent upon buy-in by employees. You have to accept that not everyone will be on-board with your decisions — indeed, just railing against this idea will leave you frustrated and your business in chaos. But that doesn't mean to say that you are powerless to ensure that workers, even those who are skeptical, get involved with the implementation. The key is to make them an integral part of it.

When there is concern about policies, seek to open a meaningful dialogue. Respect that their concerns will often come from a genuine place — either from their expertise in the area, their personal feelings, perhaps even their ethics. All well-considered opinions on policies are valuable to effective implementation, so create a forum where they can be discussed. While inviting emails on the subject is an okay start, having an open, company-wide discussion in person gives the impression of transparency, and that you are open to hearing all ideas.

Approach the matter with empathy. This will help you get to the heart of why they have issues surrounding the policies, which will then help you to provide information that can reassure them. It can also be positive to involve them in working on policies as the company continues to evolve — help them to feel engaged and invested in making the company better, rather than dismissed for their differing opinions. Even if you don't reach an agreement with such employees, it encourages positive rapport, helps everyone feel as though their thoughts have been considered, and provides a map to move beyond the sticking points.

Conclusion

Every so often it is important to implement new policies, but these can't hope to succeed without a solid approach to communication around them. Ensure that there is clear documentation outlining the details of new policies and take the time to explain why changes are being made, While there may still be disagreements, keeping employees involved in discussions and future planning can help them feel more invested in making the company work. 

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Tuesday, 28 September 2021
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