by Sara Luther
with all due respect...

Your Policy Sucks

I get it, for most organizations, and likely many people within organizations; policies and procedures (P&Ps) don’t create a “woot, woot” reaction.  How do I know this? My whole career has been intimately involved with organizational P&Ps, specifically the ones that relate to behaviours (think incivility, harassment, discrimination). I’ve read enough of them and attempted to implement enough of them, that it’s become one of Forwardworking’s important offerings to help organizations review and re-imagine these systems. Why?  Because most of them just suck.

Here are six main observations from our 15 years of being cozy with P&Ps:

  1. They are often written from the perspective of how to ensure the organization is protected (a.k.a. read and sign here by date X, so we all know you read it and we’re not responsible for anything bad that happens….), not from the perspective of empowering people to do great work in a great environment.
  2. They read like a lawyer from the 1800’s was asked to quickly draft something that maybe a judge could interpret and everyone else would just feel shut-out.
  3. Despite the legal verbiage, ironically many are legally non-complaint, not adjusting with legislative changes, or taking it upon themselves to define legal terms and rather just make stuff up.
  4. The structure and format are just plain boring.  As the world around us has offered colour, images, graphics, illustrations…P&P’s have said, “heck no, we are going to stick to our 12 Times New Roman font, and black and white format.”
  5. They are relegated to human resources as a “this is your bag” – often without sufficient support to properly review, audit and the ability to breathe new life into them.
  6. Any reviews (if they do happen) amount to a quick tweak here or there and no deep dive on how they are serving the organization (or not), exemplifying core values (or not) and helping move strategic objectives (or not).

The saddest part is that the “rollout” is often just an email to employees to remind them to read the P&Ps each year, and partaking in training that is now shifting to eLearning, which doesn’t pull people together to have real discussions and build credibility in organizational systems or leaders. The training is often generic, cookie cutter and about shoving content onto employees (remember…who’s backside is being protected?) and not creating experiences.

The lack of “woot, woot” in key P&Ps from senior leadership is exactly what middle management and employees feel when they are hitting the “next, next, next” button on the eLearning to try and complete the quiz and get on with real work.

Now, if you’ve read this and are caught off guard because you’ve done it differently, awesome! Please share your experiences within your industry and beyond.  Help get the message out, that there’s so much P&P potential that’s waiting to be utilized!
If you read this and are wondering “geeze, do our P&Ps suck?” it’s probably worth taking a look under the hood, and you know where to find us if you’d like a fresh, efficiently blunt, and always friendly nudge to see what re-imagining looks like.