Making HR policies 'More Shoreditch and less Square Mile'.
Dixons Carphone plc (DC) is a leading omnichannel retailer of technology products and services, employing over 22,000 capable and committed colleagues in the UK & Ireland.
“The expertise you brought, and the way you partnered with the team, allowed us to create policies that are fit for purpose and gave people the confidence and skills to think differently about how they write.”
Every organisation has a suite of HR policies. They’re a bit of a necessary evil in many people’s eyes – we know businesses need them, but we secretly hope that we never have to actually read one.
Because, generally, they’re a long winded, overly wordy set of rules, written in semi-legalese language for the ‘5% who don’t’ . For the average employee they’re more confusing than reassuring. And that often creates unnecessary queries to HR colleagues who could be engaging in work that’s significantly more valuable.
The team at DC knew this and, as part of a bigger HR Transformation, wanted to do something about it. In fact, their Transformation Director summed up the ask beautifully, “We want our policies to be more Shoreditch and less Square Mile”. In short, ‘more human, less corporate’.
A quick analysis of existing documents identified over 50 HR policies in a mix of layouts, structures and tones. Our challenge was to reduce that number and make them easier to find, read and understand.
What we did:
First, we asked colleagues what they thought could make their HR policies better. In six online workshops we spoke to 50 colleagues, managers and members of the People Team (HR). That insight, coupled with a review of existing policies, highlighted that multiple systems made them hard to find and the structure was inconsistent. They were also difficult to navigate, and the language and tone was unclear and hard to understand.
Created a new policy structure with clearer titles and headings, ‘Top Takeaways’ (with hyperlinks to key information within the document) and links to other relevant policies / external sources of information.
Developed writing guidelines aligned with existing values.
Combined the guidelines and structure to create a best practice example.
Trained DC colleagues on how to apply the new tone and structure.
Provided editorial support and became a ‘critical friend’ as the team started to rewrite the policies.
Ran a workshop for over 100 members of the People Team so that this new tone could be applied in other areas too.
Finally, the introduction of People Place, a new online portal, ensured that documents were easy to find and colleagues could have confidence that they’d found the right version – because there was only one!
In just eight weeks we worked with the team to review and rewrite over 92,000 words in 37 policy documents.
We used Flesch reading ease as a measure of progress and saw improvements across the board. Scores increased by 28%, from an average of 47 (akin to a corporate annual report) to 62 (more like a daily newspaper).
We also reduced the number of passive sentences by 61% - from 33% average to 13% - resulting in shorter documents and language that was easier to read and understand.
But this project didn’t just impact policy in a positive way. It showed how a focus on tone of voice and structure really can help make documents more human, engaging and easier to understand.