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Tips and tricks for writing a policy

I think everyone agrees that the best way to get an employee to do what you want is to create a written policy, whether it’s preventing excessive cell-phone use or ensuring a respectful workplace. After all, a policy lays out clear expectations, provides guidelines, and creates a base line for performance management. But how do you actually write a policy? Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to creating policies for your business:

Why are you writing the policy? 
Is the goal to mitigate a risk or increase productivity? Ensure a safe workplace or banish flip-flops? Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) you need to establish what you are hoping to achieve by putting the policy in place. 

Seek guidance
You know you need a policy, but maybe you don’t know the laws and regulations that will impact the policy. Speak to people within your business who have knowledge and experience in that area – for example, if the policy relates to a safety matter, speak to your health and safety representative or committee.

You may want to talk to a professional outside the business, especially if the policy focuses on a more contentious issue such as drug/alcohol use. Even something as seemingly simple as a dress code can have human rights implications. 

CFIB Business Counsellors are also here to help! They can offer constructive feedback, information on regulatory compliance, and templates to help you create your policy. 

Clarity! Clarity! Clarity!
There’s no point putting in place a policy that no-one understands! Clearly state the purpose of the policy, lay out the acceptable and prohibited conduct, and identify any procedures that must be followed. 

Actions have consequences
Describe the consequences of violating the policy. These could include verbal warnings, written warnings, or being sent home to change. Note that in most jurisdictions, termination is not generally an option for a first offense. Ensure the consequences are proportional to the infraction.  

Introducing the policy
Once you have completed the policy, provide each employee with two copies – one for them to read, sign and return to you, indicating they have read and understood the policy, and one for them to keep for their own records. 

Be prepared to answer questions and explain why you are putting the policy in place. Listen to the feedback – employees may notice an issue that you missed. Remember: policies are organic; they will grow and change as your business changes. 

For the policy to be effective you will need buy-in from everyone – especially managers and supervisors, as they are likely the ones who will be enforcing the policy. Provide any necessary training to ensure they can do their job.

CFIB has many policy templates, so please contact your Business Counsellor if you need any help.

This post was inspired by the McInnes Cooper article Be diligent: 5 practical steps to enforceable workplace policies