When (and Why) You Should Introduce a New HR Policy

Here’s how to know when to introduce a new HR policy to protect employees and employers, set expectations, and cultivate company culture.

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How should HR departments determine which policies are best and how to explain them?

Here's what you need to know:

  • Sometimes HR policies do more harm than good
  • Employees crave flexibility and a company culture built on respect
  • Collect employee feedback regularly to ensure workers are engaged
  • Consider drafting a new policy or a Diversity and Inclusion Statement to outline your business's commitment to equality
  • Effective policies help to protect your business's reputation and cybersecurity
  • Consider updating your handbook and policies every 2 years at a minimum

Well-defined human resources (HR) policies are an essential part of any company’s framework. However, not all policies are created equal.

The reality is that we can’t solve every business problem or challenge with a new HR policy. Sometimes HR policies do more harm than good, especially ones not designed or introduced correctly.

For example, attendance policies for salaried employees are typically ill-advised and a sure-fire path to high turnover. Similarly, strict rules about dress codes for office workers can often come across as archaic and downright sexist. Employers cannot afford outdated, unfair, or big brother-esque policies that turn off top talent.

Even with some pitfalls, policies and procedures are essential to protect employees and employers, set expectations, and cultivate company culture. So can HR departments know which policies are best and how to explain them?

Employees want and deserve to be treated as adults with HR policies that make sense in the modern business world. Being thoughtful about when (and why) to introduce new HR policies is key to retaining top talent. Keep reading to learn more.

Introducing a new HR policy: when and why

Recent years have been tumultuous for businesses and employees due to COVID-19. However, if the chaos taught us anything, workers aren’t ready to go back to “business as usual.” They crave flexibility and a company culture built on respect.

HR policies are a vital piece of the employee satisfaction picture, and they can make or break a worker’s attitude about their job.

According to recent data, job satisfaction went from its lowest rate of 42% in 2010 to 56% in 2020. This was partly due to companies checking in on their employees more and new policies, like flexible work hours.

HR policies are a vital piece of the employee satisfaction picture, and they can make or break a worker’s attitude about their job. Here’s why and when to introduce a new policy.

In response to employee feedback

Companies should collect employee feedback regularly to ensure workers are engaged in their job roles, with their management team, and in the company’s culture. Data collection is crucial as it informs businesses when workers are dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction can be an essential driving force behind the creation of new HR policies.

Try surveying your workforce quarterly, extracting common pain points, and collaborating with employees on the best policies to address their needs. Statistics show that employees are more willing to accept and support policies in which they are involved. For example, if most of your employees want to begin work at 9 am versus 8 am, adjusting your office hours may be worth considering.

To protect health and safety

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis of global proportions, impacting individuals, businesses, and world economies. As a result, many companies quickly shifted to remote work models to protect the health and safety of their employees.

COVID marked a seismic shift in how the world works and HR departments had to draft company policies to adapt quickly. However, most if not all employees understood the necessity of these changes.

While we all certainly hope that another global pandemic is not on the horizon, HR departments should be ready with policies that protect employee health and safety should the need arise again. When drafting health and safety policies, include things like remote work rules, emergency shutdown procedures, sick time, bereavement, back to office protocols, and more.

To support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Diversity is a hot topic among HR professionals, and the statistics show it will continue to be. This is important to take note of when planning upcoming HR initiatives.

While many companies may think their culture is inclusive, recent data shows that most U.S. workplaces fall short. Just 1 of 6 diverse employees felt more supported during COVID-19 than before.

Whether it’s race or gender equality, the push toward workplace equality has never been greater. Consider drafting a new HR policy or a Diversity and Inclusion Statement to outline your business’s commitment to equality in hiring, promoting, and managing workers.

Create a communication plan informing all employees of your statement and their role in creating an equitable workplace. Train management staff to incorporate the principles into everything they do, from recruiting, onboarding, one-on-one meetings, performance reviews, etc.

To improve current policies

Many companies, especially smaller companies, tend to make employee handbooks and let them collect dust. Aside from updating yearly health insurance information, HR departments often fail to refresh existing policies, which can leave a lot of procedures ambiguous.

Perhaps your company doesn’t yet have a detailed exit strategy for when employees decide to leave or are dismissed. Or maybe there isn’t a clear remote work policy. Companies must address these issues by creating and implementing fair HR policies. Consider updating your handbook and policies every 2 years at a minimum to ensure your rules are clear and in line with current laws, compliance issues, and world events.

Psst: Don’t forget to update your HR handbook to fit the new world of work.

To protect the company’s reputation or confidentiality

Creating and enforcing social media policies can protect the reputation of your company. You may need guidelines for company accounts and procedures for your employees’ personal social media profiles. Include what disciplinary measures the company will take for policy violations.

Additionally, you should be specific about which things are confidential. Just remember that compensation and working conditions aren’t private.

To enhance cybersecurity

No company is immune to the world of cyberattacks. A benchmark study by CISCO found that 40% of the small businesses that faced a severe cyberattack experienced at least 8 hours of downtime. Digital criminals are everywhere, and they can take your company down with a few clicks. To better protect your organization against cyber threats, it’s critical to have policies that safeguard data, assets, intellectual property, and company reputation.

HR departments should work closely with information technology (IT) departments to formulate policies around business technology. This is especially important as many workers work remotely. Some things to consider include how your firm will protect company data with remote staff, who will have access to what data internally, and procedures for data breaches.

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Implementing new HR policies

To best introduce a new HR policy, companies must communicate the policy thoroughly. Here’s the three-step framework for proper communication.

The “why” — This  statement outlines why the organization is issuing the policy and the desired outcome.

For example, “Employees play an important role in the reputation of [Company Name]. A positive persona on social media is essential to maintaining our professional reputation with customers and company shareholders. You never know who is looking at your social media activity. If people view it, any nefarious activity could poorly reflect our firm. By being aware of what you post publicly, you can help yourself and our company succeed.”

The specifics — This section maps out the details of the new policy and what it will look like in real life.

For example, “Employees are expected to maintain a positive persona on social media. This includes abstaining from posts that include bad language, adult content, illegal content, or content that disparages the company.”

The game plan ⁠— This section illustrates when and how the new policy will be implemented.

For example, “All employees will be subject to this new policy/revision as of [date].” If managers become aware of social media activity that goes against our guidelines, ___will happen.”

Determine what metrics you need to track to ensure the new policy is understood, implemented, and appropriately enforced.

After implementing a new workplace policy, it’s essential to monitor it and evaluate its success. Ensure all managers receive the training they need and have distributed training materials to their teams.

Determine what metrics you need to track to ensure the new policy is understood, implemented, and appropriately enforced. You’ll also need to track metrics that show the effectiveness of the solutions outlined in the new policy.

Bottom line

HR policies provide a foundation for employee expectations, organizational obligations, disciplinary procedures, and behavior standards. Additionally, HR policies help businesses meet training, ethics, diversity, and regulation requirements.

While policies have their place, not all business policies are good ones. Some policies can be counterproductive to company goals. For example, a company that wants to increase remote employee productivity might implement a clock/in/out procedure to ensure employees work a certain number of hours, even if they are salaried. While this policy might make sense on paper, it could make employees feel that the company doesn’t trust them or is micromanaging them, leading to turnover. Now, more than ever, workers want to be treated with respect, with HR policies to match.

Employees ultimately want to know they are cared for and listened to, and HR policies represent the perfect opportunity to showcase your commitment to their satisfaction.

To contribute to a culture of respect and engagement, introduce new policies based on employee feedback. This can help protect health and safety, support DEI, refresh current policies, safeguard the company’s reputation, and enhance cybersecurity measures.

The way you introduce new policies is just as important as the policies themselves. Introduce new guidelines through transparent communication. Explain why you are presenting the policy, the details of the policy, and how/when it will be integrated.

Employees ultimately want to know they are cared for and listened to, and HR policies represent the perfect opportunity to showcase your commitment to their satisfaction.

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