This blog is a part of a series.
As most organizations have initiated RTO (Return to Office) rules and hybrid working, it got me thinking about how HR policies support and influence the culture of an organization. After all – culture is often defined as the assimilation of shared beliefs and values in an organization, which ultimately make the “aura of a place”. In knowledge-based organizations, culture is ever-evolving as each new person who logs in, brings with them a distinct, unique flavour which adds to the organization’s way of working.
HR policies. Guidelines. Standards. Call it what you may, this set of instructions often gives vocabulary to an organization’s culture. HR policies convey, in a more tangible manner, the organization’s stance and expectations. In my view, one needs to design the policies (or the vocabulary) of the organization keeping in mind the following broad principles:
1. Who are we creating the policies for?
One of the unspoken rules in HR Management is the 95:5 rule. Typically, HR policies are designed to handle that 5% of the workforce, who tend to find loopholes and/or violate the policy. So, the policy text contains a lot of strictures and rules to handle this 5%, the outliers.
Suppose Adam and Derek are employees of organization X. The organization’s HR policy states, “Employees are prohibited from indulging in any form of substance abuse within the premises during work hours.” Adam understands that the intent of the policy is to protect the workers’ health and avoid any mishaps or unintended unprofessional behaviour. But, Derek finds a loophole in the policy statement and shows up to work after consuming mind-altering substances “outside the office premises” before work hours start.
Adam belongs to the 95% of the workforce. Derek, however, represents the 5%.
A progressive people-oriented outlook means that we should flip our approach and create policies which cater to the 95% of the population – those who only need the guidelines on what to do and who simply want to understand the organization’s stance on a topic.
Keep it simple. Decide an approach depending on the Target Group, as a one-size-fits-all never works. Knowledge-based workers normally like to understand the intent and then read up on the defined guidelines. A minimalist and principle-based approach to content is what will work for them.
Operational and Field staff will also do well to understand the intent and most often want to get on with the specific details. Hence, each policy needs to have a “why” as the intent is important to explain, a “what” which explains the key points of a policy and a “how” that tackles the logistics and the procedures, wherever needed.
3. Language or tone used
How we express what we want to say – the tonality-the impression we want the reader to walk away with, is among the most important aspects of policy creation and elaboration.
Is the language more prescriptive and regulation-driven, or is it softer and guideline-driven? Whatever choice one makes – there needs to be complete clarity in the way a policy is written. And the clarity should again be from the average employee’s point of view.
4. What kind of policies should one have?
In today’s companies, policies and benefits are an important differentiator that helps the organization stand out from others. Factors of “what appeals” and “what flexibility” one has, are of more importance than actual utilization. In today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, the power of the choice belongs to the employee, and the platform and the offerings belong to the organization.
Also, today’s multi-faceted employee looks at policies as a way of understanding what the organization supports. For example, recently at Ninjacart, we introduced the Period Leave – applicable to all employees who identify as women. We did this to express support and acknowledge the diverse needs of our workforce. This decision received an enthusiastic response from our current employees and applicants, who identify as women.
Policies should be flexible and be reflective of the workforce’s needs – present and future. Hence, it is important to revisit them on an annual basis – and relook at what needs are being fulfilled, what language is being spoken and also, and if the intent is being elaborated on in a clear and concise manner. Along with the values, the purpose and the ways of working, policies form a baseline in culture building and can sometimes be used as an instrument which helps define it.
Ninjacart is disrupting agriculture with cutting-edge technology and building a great team. We’re tirelessly working to create a culture that encourages people to outperform their own expectations, while they lead a well–balanced life.
(Anuja leads HR at Ninjacart)