Need to clarify your stance on social media use at work? Or specify how often employees should check in with supervisors when working from home? Employee policies are great tools for communicating your expectations to employees and ensuring the rules of your workplace are enforced fairly and consistently. But success is all in the execution. If your employee policy is poorly defined or unnecessarily restrictive, it is sure to fall flat, says Michelle Thompson, vice president of HR at XMI.

But, you don’t need a policy for everything. “Having too many policies limits your management team’s ability to address unique situations or individual employee needs,” she says.

You may want to think about creating a policy if any of these circumstances apply:

  • Employees are confused about the most appropriate way to behave or handle certain situations such as smartphone use or working remotely.
  • You need to establish consistent standards or rules for safety, discipline or conduct on the job.
  • You need to ensure employees are treated consistently and fairly when it comes to benefits eligibility, paid time off, leave requests, etc.
  • You need legal protection for how you handle hiring, employee investigations or another aspect of company management.
  • You need to show compliance with government laws for minimum wage, family and medical leave, or other regulations.

Creating effective employee policies

Once you’ve settled on the need for a policy, keep it short and simple. Start by clearly stating the purpose behind it. Include enough details to explain your company’s position on the matter, but don’t try to cover every scenario. Speak directly to employees about what is required, any exceptions to the rule, how it will be enforced and the date it will go into effect. Thompson recommends avoiding using rigid language such as, “only,” “always,” “will” or “must,” or all-inclusive lists that imply the policy must be followed exactly as written in all circumstances.

Instead, she says, use terms such as, “generally,” “usually,” “typically” and “may,” to provide managers with flexibility in how they interpret and apply the policy based on the situation or severity of the violation. Save absolutes for only when necessary. This helps guard against liability and delivers more impact when it’s needed.

Make your policy even more effective by asking managers and/or a select group of employees to review it and incorporating their feedback. It’s also a good idea to run the policy by your attorney to prevent any legal challenges down the road.

Download our checklist below for a glimpse at the most common employee policies and what they entail.

Download the Most Common Employment Policies Checklist

Download the Most Common Employment Policies Checklist for a glimpse at the most common employee policies and what they entail.


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