If I had my way, I would probably ditch ‘policies’ altogether! In my 16 years plus experience of ‘HR’, I don’t know how many people who actually have read the Employee Handbook. For those who do, it’s usually to skip straight to the part about holidays and the benefits of working for ABC corp, or when you land yourself in a hot mess and need to check what the rules you (were) meant to follow actually are.

I want to start with this notion – ‘treat your employees like adults’. Yep, you may have heard this line a few times over the years, I remember hearing it on a Ted Talk from Patty McCord (Netflix, Chief Talent Officer) and it stayed with me!

So, how might HR teams translate this concept to create an inclusive culture? Let’s start with the good ‘ole Handbook or Company policies. At every stage of the employee journey (EX) an employee will be pointed to the ‘HR policy’ that governs the ‘way we do things here’. After all, culture is ‘how we do things’. So if your narrative externally doesn’t match the internal rhetoric, then I am afraid we have a problem!

Whilst writing this, I appreciate we are navigating our ways (sinking under a massive tidal wave) of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, I believe that these tips can apply to our current and future state organisations – so in essence I have tried to future-proof our human respect (HR) for us worthy policy writers.

  • Keep it simple – no one wants to read through pages and pages of documents. Have we considered the audience and the jargon within our people policies? e.g. lets consider the traditional Redundancy policy – not pleasant for the person going through the process or for the HR team having to run it! So share clear and concise information but try to avoid legalistic jargon.
  • Keep it meaningful – when writing policies, remember there is a person reading it who needs something from you (the Line Manager, the People team etc.) is your compassionate leave policy, well compassionate? does it consider the person and take a human approach? e.g. a compassionate leave policy which provides a new definition to ‘family’ that doesn’t limit your grief to your immediate family. Or how about, not setting a limit of five days if you lose a beloved child! 5 days to grieve seems ludicrous right? so WHY are we still writing this stuff into HR policies?
  • Keep it inclusive – are you using neutral language in your people policies? do our policies ensure that everyone feels welcome? are your policies such as Maternity & Paternity gender neutral? e.g. how about a multicultural organisation that only provides documents in English? doesn’t feel very inclusive does it?
  • Keep it respectful – not that anyone sets out to not be ‘respectful’ but the parent/child type approach surely is outdated now. When writing your people policies, think about your employee (people) as a peer. e.g. when talking about issues of conduct, disciplinaries get a hard time – and rightly so in my view! from the moment you are called up by HR, you know something is up. Mild panic sets in and you rack your brains to figure out where you have screwed up! Not a great rep for HR or way to create trusting relationships based on trust. Create an environment where it is ok to make mistakes and own up to them.
  • Keep it human – for me there is no place for a HR function without the ‘human’ side. This doesn’t mean we (as a people function) can’t make difficult decisions or shy away from situations that have the potential to make us feel deeply sad or uncomfortable. But, it does mean when faced with situations we remember. e.g. how about instead of 1-2-1 we ‘re-framed’ our thinking and approached these meetings as ‘check-ins’ already feels more balanced¬† doesn’t it? Instead of performance management how about we focus on ‘growth’ and ‘development’. I am sure there are many organisations who are striding towards a new and inclusive approach to HR but changing our policies not only requires a change in language but a change in mindset.

Let’s stop replicating and recycling the old ‘HR policies’ and instead start reimagining a new found human respect.