How to… Create an HR policy

An HR policy guide will help explain a company’s philosophy, how it
operates, and how it treats its people. Peter Sell, managing director of DMS
Consultancy, says: "Within that broad framework, various areas can be
covered, including equal opportunities, employee communications, people
development, resourcing, health & safety etc. These are all component parts
of an HR policy statement."

An HR policy guide is also a hands-on tool with very practical purposes. At
one level, you could be talking about a staff handbook that incorporates a
company’s policy on issues like staff diversity and flexible working – how the
policy affects individuals. At another level, says Angela Baron, adviser on
organisation and resourcing at CIPD, an HR policy guide could be used to help
management interpret an organisation’s policy – the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a
policy guide, says Baron. "Take an area like staff appraisals. The HR
policy guide would say, ‘people get appraised, this is how you do it, this is
what we expect to achieve from it’."

Why is it important?

An HR policy guide tells staff what is expected of them and what, in turn,
the organisation will deliver to them. Martin Rooney, HR policy manager at CIS,
describes it as "a statement of intent that supports a company’s culture,
behaviours and values." It will also show an individual if their values
are aligned to those of the organisation.

An HR policy guide has another important purpose: setting down for staff and
management their legal requirements and responsibilities. Such guidelines will
help prevent people from impinging on legislation – for example, equal
opportunities legislation during recruitment processes.

Where do you start?

The starting point has to be a company’s philosophy and its business
strategy, says Sell. "Then you need to try to get across to the
organisation what you see as your HR philosophy. And the HR department has to
show how it adds value to the business."

But before attempting to put the HR guide on paper, do some research. There
are two areas to cover. The first is academic – understanding HR policy in
relation to good practice. Then you need to find out what other people are

Who gets involved?

While senior HR people might be the guide’s ‘sponsors’, people across the
organisation need to buy in to it. Line managers must be consulted, and if
there are any forums such as unions, they need to be involved too. As Rooney
explains: "The policy statement and how you seek to achieve your objective
are equally important -there’s no point putting together a policy about
diversity if you haven’t approached the stakeholders, such as unions."

Line management should also be consulted and the board of directors needs to
be involved – there is bound to be some sort of financial investment required
in delivering an HR policy, and the policy needs to be linked to a company’s
business strategy.

Communication and implementation

There are a variety of vehicles and means of communicating an HR policy
guide – from briefings and news articles to HR literature – and procedures will
vary from organisation to organisation. "Some organisations would get the
policy guide straight onto their internal websites, while others would introduce
it through discussions with focus groups," says Sell.

What is important is that the policy guide is made constantly available so
that people are aware of a company’s philosophy from the initial selection and
induction processes, through to the workplace itself. "There also has to
be continuous evaluation," says Rooney.

But communication is only part of the process, says Baron. "You have to
make sure the managers have the right skills to implement it. Having the policy
is not enough, you have to enable it to be used positively."

Where can I get more info?

The CIPD is a good starting point, offering a range of publications, research
and expertise,

Strategic HR and the key to improving business performance by Angela Baron
& Michael Armstrong
Creating a Staff Handbook by Clare Hogg

Websites, The London Business
School, Centre
for Business Performance, Cranfield School of Management, University of Sheffield
(The Institute of Work Psychology)

If you only do five things

1 Be clear about why the policy is
necessary and what you are hoping to achieve from it

2 Find out what others have done – there’s no point in
reinventing what is already out there

3 Get key stakeholders involved

4 Clarity is important – avoid HR jargon

5 Make sure your legal team checks the policy over before it is

Expert’s view:  The Work Foundation’s Patrick Burns explains
how to create an HR policy guide

Patrick Burns is director of advocacy
for The Work Foundation, the independent body advising organisations on
improving the productivity and quality of working life in the UK. He has
written recent studies on employee involvement, mental health discrimination,
company law reform, and employee motivation.

What do you see as the starting
point for creating an HR policy guide?

I would start with the imperative of clarity among the right
people – an organisation cannot contemplate communicating a vision, mission
statement or policy until it knows where it is trying to go.

At what point should you start communicating the policy?

Communication can start early on – you need to bring in a
number of people before the policy is finalised, and, at very least, the whole
leadership team. You may want to test the approach you’re taking with parts of
your organisation, with staff, to see whether the message resonates with the
journey they think they are on. Marketing or PR departments get involved in the
translation of the policies as they are communicated internally. You cannot
afford to lose the meaning of the policy but so many things can go wrong. Are
you clear about your key audiences, are you clear about the message, and are
you clear about how you’re going to deliver the message to the different
audiences? Targeting is crucial.

What is the most effective communication tool?

You have to be smart about the channels you use – from an
e-mailed document to the intranet to board displays, and then there’s
face-to-face. More often than not, it will be line managers who are key to
conveying the policy – so have you explained to them what you’re trying to
achieve? Have they been kept in the loop?

Top three tips:

– Be clear about your message and what you are trying to achieve

– Target the right message to the right audience

– Ensure those responsible for delivering the policy are kept
in the loop

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