If you read my blog post: What Does The HR Department Actually Do, you’ll know that one of the delivery focus areas I referenced was Legislative Compliance. We have a responsibility to our organisation to ensure that we are legally compliant and have people practices in place supporting this.

However, how do you ensure that you strike the right balance? How do you ensure that your policies are compliant and your organisation stays out of any employment tribunals without spending all of your time here, at the detriment of the engagement and experience of your employees, and the achievement of your organisational goals?

Wrapped up in red tape

It is horribly easy to become wrapped up in red tape without even realising it. In some of my early HR roles, I spent days writing policy after policy after policy. Why? Well, it was what was expected. No self-respecting HR department was going to admit to not having a positive raft of policies to cover all and every eventuality. Absence management policy? Check. Dress code policy? Check. Adverse weather conditions policy? Check.

A never-ending cycle of policy management

If you’re not careful, though, what tends to happen is you become caught up in a never-ending cycle of policy management. More than that, your entire focus switches onto policy writing, and you fall into the trap of managing by policies. In other words, you forget your responsibility to the people resource within the business. In fact, you forget that you’re really managing people at all. Engagement and experience go by the wayside as you focus solely on trying to get your human resource to behave in a very non-human manner and adhere rigidly to policy and process.

Getting the balance right

So, how do you get the balance right? What is the ‘right’ level of policy roll out, and what should the scope of the policies you do implement be?

The answer, of course, is that there’s no ‘right’ approach. All organisations are different, all workforces are different, and consequently there is no one size fits all answer for us to be guided by as HR professionals.

What does your organisation need?

What we must do, then, is what we must always do when we start out on a course of action: we must pause for breath, step back, and look at our organisation. Forget about what we’ve heard is ‘best practise’. Forget about what we’ve read an article on the approach they’ve taken at [insert company name of your choice]. It’s fine to take inspiration both from best practise and from case studies, but when it comes to execution, the needs of your own organisation must always be king.

I am an enormous advocate of the phrase ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. Take a look around your business, right now. Are your employees turning up for work on time? Great. In that case, a convoluted time keeping policy is unlikely to be needed. Are they dressed appropriately? You can probably skip the half day you’d put aside to write up a new dress code policy.

On the flip side, there are a small number of HR processes which are governed strictly by legislation, and therefore do justify a policy. One of the few formal policies we do have here at Benefex is our disciplinary and grievance policy, as this ensures that managers across the business are compliant and we apply consistent treatment to all.

Focus on your majority

A frequent mistake organisations make is to write policies in order to address the inappropriate behaviour of a minority, as opposed to dealing with this by exception and focusing on engaging and developing their employee majority. Writing a policy isn’t going to deal with an issue for you. Tackling the behaviour and changing it head on is.