Workplace policies should be looked at as a guideline for staff and management, not a set of rules. While breach of a policy should be taken as a serious matter, using it as a "big stick" to control how and what employees do defeats the purpose of the policy. Policies should be a framework on which employees can build and expand. Otherwise, staff will learn to lack initiative and simply "follow the rules" rather than try to improve services and find new, more efficient ways of doing things.
Policies should also be reviewed with some regularity. Some policies will not be popular with customers and staff. This is not a valid reason to change a policy. However, many inconsistencies and problems with policies can only be identified once they are put into practice. If a policy does not seem to be working, try to identify what part is not working, why it is not working and in what way it can be changed and improved. This should be done in consultation with customers and staff, as those working at floor level are often the ones who can best identify the strengths and weaknesses of a policy. Try to look for positive and negative feedback. If complaints are made, then always look to that party to suggest ways changes can be made.
Having said that, policies are a very necessary part of business and the lack of policies can cause the following problems:
- Inconsistency in actions taken by both management and general staff (lack of direction!).
- The need for a consistent approach in the way customers and staff alike are dealt with is paramount to the success of a business.
- Increased possibility of conflict between staff and management, and staff and clients. If different rules apply to different people, all sorts of problems can occur within the business. While a policy should always have flexibility, they do provide a safety net as to why things must be done in a "certain way." It is important to note here that management should always be aware of WHY the policies are what they are. The ability to explain a company policy is just as vital as having one in place. (Most everyone has experienced the frustration of being told "It's company policy" in lieu of a real explanation!)
- Inefficiencies and inconsistency in dealing with problems.
- Failure to properly/adequately service customers/clients. The lack of policies can often make it difficult on employees who need to make a decision in regard to customer requests. A policy is not a substitute for good customer service, but it will help employees make sound decisions in regard to customer requests.
- Increased likelihood of legal actions taken against the organisation. Policies on issues such as equal employment opportunities, equal use of facilities by all parties, or why a certain facility may be appointed as gender or age specific at a particular time, is important, should those things ever face any legal challenge.
- Increased likelihood of accidents/workplace injuries. Again, making everyone aware of the expectations in regard to safety is important. While employers and employees are bound by the Occupational Health & Safety Act in each state, a code of practice, to instruct all staff and clients on how they can meet their responsibilities is needed.