It is said that change is the only constant, and in the context of an organization, a crucial catalyst of change is policy. Company policies promote and sustain change, ensuring that new standards and ways of working trickle down to every level of the organization. Moving from policy to practice, however, demands strategic communication. You not only need to reach out to the right persons at the right time but want to get all aboard and rowing in synchrony.
5 steps to easy and effective policy communication
Depending on the mediums used, policy communication can range from archaic to automated, and in today’s tech-driven work environment, most companies have some digital means of communicating their policies. However, creating awareness is just the starting point of policy communication. Awareness must lead to understanding and acceptance if workplace policies are to truly translate into practice and have a lasting impact on the organization. This is why it is wise, and sometimes necessary, to couple policy distribution with training. Likewise, to boost employee buy-in and promote transparency, it is advisable to inject a healthy dose of facetime into your policy communication ritual.
Having established that policy communication is more than bulletins and emails, take a look at 5 important elements of communicating a company policy.
Communication is dialogue
Priming your employees before a rollout of a new policy is a great way to gently usher in change. You could do this through anything from a news bulletin update to a series of desktop alerts. The goal is to give your employees time to:
- Evaluate the impact of the policy
- Understand the motives behind it
- Prepare for change at the workplace
However, such ‘soft launches’ do not really constitute ‘communication’, which should ideally be a two-way street. Hence, the recommendation is for facetime, be it in the form of videoconferencing or group meetings. Here, transparency is king, with live meetings providing a platform for doubts to be cleared. Another upside to having meetings with team leaders, for instance, is that you also build a group of ‘policy champions’, strong advocates of the policy and the logic that undergirds it.
While such facetime is crucial before and during a policy rollout, dialogue also includes feedback, an element that occurs all through the lifecycle of the policy. In fact, while policy guides practice, it is a practice that informs policy. Think, for instance, of a BYOD policy that is overly restrictive on access, permissions, and types of devices allowed. Implementing an effective BYOD policy may require some give and take if productivity isn’t to take a major hit. To reach such a compromise, while owning risks as they arise, there is a need for efficient feedback channels.
The medium is the message
Owing to the advancements of information technology, there are a variety of means of communicating a policy once it is written:
- Displayed on a public noticeboard
- Uploaded to the company intranet
- Hosted on a gated section of the company website
- Included in the company newsletter
- Inserted into the employee handbook
- Sent through email
- Added to the policy manual
- Conveyed via departmental/ global conferences
- Shared through social media or productivity suites
- Publishing policies on organization’s policy portal
The best approach is a multi-media approach, wherein you pick and choose a mix of the communication tools at your disposal, depending on the importance of the policy. A policy that reflects changes in labor laws may find itself communicated through all of the above channels, whereas a remote work policy, affecting only a section of your workforce, may be better suited for targeted channels.
A tiered approach can generate positive results too. For instance:
- Issuing a single-statement desktop alert through your internal communications platform
- Sending out a quick, brief summary through email
- Publishing policies on organization’s policy portal
When picking from the different communication mediums, you need to consider questions like ‘who?’, ‘what?’ and ‘when?’. A policy meant for senior management only may call for business emails and a departmental meeting. Likewise, not every policy should find itself on a public noticeboard. Similarly, if you need to communicate a quick change in your remote work or leaves policy, you would not wait for your weekly newsletter to do its round. Finally, it makes sense to be consistent with your modes of delivering policies and policy updates. The danger is that tinkering too much with the delivery strategy can lead to employees missing crucial updates.
Train to succeed
For policy to translate into practice, policy communication must aid comprehension. This step of training employees can not only help you get your organization thinking alike but may also come in good stead should you need to furnish proof that your employee actually understands your policy during a legal tussle.
Workshops are a great option, but it may not be possible to facilitate long training meetings, especially if the impact of the policy is organization-wide. The attractive alternative is microlearning, which can happen in the form of online quizzes and games. The goal of policy communication training should be two-fold:
- Equipping employees to practice the policy
- Illustrating to employees what’s in it for them
Acceptance is crucial
Sometimes there is a level of opacity involved in policy communication. Even when emails are sent, they can get lost within a pile of other less-important messages. The best way, to avoid legal loopholes, is to have your employee read and attest to a policy. This can be done digitally using a policy management platform. Certain policies, which have frequent updates, may call for recurring acknowledgments. Having a platform that facilitates digital acknowledgment and acceptance can greatly minimize manual work.
Accessibility promotes change
Lastly, it is vital to store your policy in a place that is easy to find. Policies that should always be on people’s minds, like the anti-harassment policy that warrants a permanent place in communal areas. Your policies should go into a policy manual and certain audits may require you to furnish physical copies. Nevertheless, it is ideal to have a policy repository where your employees can access the policies easily.
For the greatest accessibility, ensure your online policy platform supports:
- Easy to search
- Policy updates notifications
Having considered these 5 important elements of policy communication, it’s easy to see how technology plays a key role in going from policy to practice. VComply’s Policy Management Software has inbuilt modules for effortless policy distribution, testing, and attestation. You can analyze policy understanding, establish policy checkpoints, restrict access to certain individuals, keep track of policy changes, set up real-time alerts, and more! In fact, you get all the tools you need for end-to-end policy lifecycle management. To explore all the benefits of VComply, book a demo today.