• Scott McInnes

54 | Making your HR policies a bit more, well, human!

So three things happened last week to spawn this weeks post.

Firstly, I’ve been working a project for a new client, helping them to haul their HR policy book into the 21st century. Like many (probably the majority) of companies, the tone of their policies was formal and adult-child, they were too long and they were really impersonal (‘the company will’ and ‘the employee should' etc etc). So I’m working with their HR team to change all that.

It's as much a communications job as it is an HR job.

Secondly, I read Netflix’s culture guide again. Boy, how refreshing is that as a read. If you work in HR you should read it, immediately - here’s a link.

Finally, I was listening to a podcast with Laszlo Bock who, until three years ago was Google’s Head of People Operations. In it he talked about many different things including trust. It was a really interesting podcast and a good investment of 40mins

When it comes to areas like policy there is a massive difference in how it’s managed by companies. Those like Google and Netflix (and all the other ‘new’ companies) will often go for the ‘we’ve hired you, we trust you to do the right thing' approach. Whereas, the majority of all the rest do the opposite - every base and angle is covered. By example, when I was looking at an expenses policy the other day I noted that they’d started to list the things that the company WOULDN’T pay for - magazine subscriptions, pay TV in hotels, speeding fines etc. But where does that list stop? Drugs? Alcohol? Guns? Caribbean holiday?

It strikes me that ‘Do what’s in the best interests of Netflix’ (yes, that’s actually their expenses policy) or 'Take holidays' (likewise) shows an unrivaled level of trust between the company and its people.

But to do that, companies need to be brave. And only the very bravest of HRDs or Chief People Officers would directly move from one to the other.

But if they did, what would happen? Would everyone take 18 weeks holidays a year? Or not come to work at all? Would they start emailing company secrets to the media or your competitors? Or start buying PPV in hotels?

I don't think so (and if they did then you'd just deal with that on a case by case basis or I suspect, staff would start to peer-police).

But if a move like that is a bridge too far for your company, there are some things you can do to make your policies more about the '95% who do' versus 'the 5% who don't'.

Here are a few of the things we're doing on that client project right now:

  • First things first -What do readers need from this policy – prioritise those things up front

  • Be clear - Give as much clear and specific information as possible

  • Avoid jargon - Use simple words, plain phrases and avoid jargon

  • Be personal - Use ‘we’, ‘you’, ‘us’ wherever possible

  • Watch sentence length – 15-20 words per sentence is a good target

Alternatively you can just contact us and we can come and help. :-)


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