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Almost every people policy I have ever seen is about twice as long as it really needs to be.

Many fall into the same traps, over and over, adding little in the way of practical value. So I challenge you. Review your policies with a critical eye, and see which of these mistakes you might be making.

Trap 1 Stating the obvious.

I once saw a policy that referred to the fact that a company would have a meeting with an employee if certain situations arose. It then went on to define what amounted to a meeting. Just in case anyone wasn’t entirely sure. Say what is necessary and no more.

Trap 2 Trying to cover every eventuality

You can’t. So don’t even try. If you set guiding principles and empower your managers to act within them, then this should be sufficient. Consider a social media policy. If you try and mention every type of platform or activity, or try and think of every way that employees can misuse them and then add this to your policy, you will never keep up.

Trap 3 Keep on growing

One of the problems with policies is that they get bigger without you even noticing. Something occurs that has never happened before (see trap 2) so we quickly add it in. A couple of years the policy will be bigger than the Yellow Pages used to be. Just stick to your principles. If you can’t say it in a couple of pages, then maybe you need to check you are not falling into some of these potential traps.

Trap 4 Having too many.

How many policies do you really need? For example, if your approach to redundancy is to do nothing more than the statutory minimum, then you don’t need to have a policy at all. You just follow the law. If when it comes to discipline and grievance you follow the ACAS code, just have a statement in your contract or handbook that says so. There are some policies that you do need. Social media is a good example, for no more reason than you might just loose an ET without one. But you do not need a plethora of policies so large that printing them takes an entire tree.

Trap 5 Not being flexible.

Rules are made to be broken. By which I mean that there is a time for following a policy to the letter, and a time to know when you need to be flexible, and either make an exception for good reason, or flex your whole approach. Yes, I mean you, if you are still blocking social media on your corporate website based on a decision taken in 2004.

Trap 6 Swallowing a dictionary.

Plain language is just fine. Leave the ‘hereafters’ and ‘up to and includings’ to the legal documents. Write like you speak.

So be honest. Do you recognise anything?

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