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Incident & Policy Management

Effective Policy Communication: How to Inform and Educate Employees on Policy Changes

In the past several years alone, workplaces across the world have had to adapt to dramatic shifts in the way we work and the way HR departments care for employees. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a novel work-from-home workforce. Large-scale social protests sparked conversations about wellness and therapy supports available to employees. Even before that, offices were learning to incorporate new technology like AI, machine learning, and digital automations into their day-to-day processes.

As employees continue to adapt to new norms, human resource professionals need to respond in kind. In addition to providing relevant support, HR is tasked with crafting policies that clearly outline the company’s approach to widespread changes, and then providing effective policy communication and education around those changing policies. 

Compliance with company policy is important to employee safety, litigation protection, and overall workplace well-being. If you haven’t done so in a while, now is a great time to review, update, and add to your current policies — and to consider how you’re encouraging your workforce to adhere to these standards.

5 Approaches To Effective Policy Communication

Let’s consider a few approaches HR experts can take to craft policies that are relevant, adaptable, and adoptable.

1. Communicate transparently

Drafting new policies in a vacuum guarantees one outcome: resistance. When writing a policy for your workforce, focus on communication even before it’s time to roll out the new standard to your full team. 

If possible, meet with managers or supervisors while still in the planning stage. This will allow you to garner stakeholder support early on. Remember, your managers have a clearer idea of how new requirements will impact the day-to-day work, and they’ll likely be responsible for the administration of the new guidelines. Offering them an opportunity to make suggestions or ask preliminary questions is beneficial for their sense of inclusion and it will allow you to preemptively clarify questions within the policy language.

When it is time to communicate the new policy to your wider employee pool, be thorough. Explain the purpose of the policy so that your team understands the need for these new rules or procedures. Describe the specifications of the policy. Detail the implementation plan if it’s a more in-depth change, like technology updates or procedural enhancements. Then, clearly communicate the date this new policy will go into effect.

2. Be available & empathetic

Though HR is responsible for much more than handling employees’ personal matters, a core part of the job is empathy. This new regulation or change to company processes may seem necessary or simple to you, but it’s important to recognize that change of any kind can cause stress. Stress ultimately impacts employee morale and productivity. 

To ease the transition, and to improve the adoption of your new rules, offer outlets for employees to respond with feedback or questions. Choose a solution that allows team members to report their concerns, keeps the reporter anonymous, and provides a seamless communication interface for ongoing discussion. Technology like this helps HR professionals monitor the real-time, raw response employees have to changes in the workplace, but it also encourages adoption because it provides a path to communicate if they feel their day-to-day work is impacted by the new policy. Ultimately, it’s important that you remain firm in your defense of the new rule but recognize that change might come with resistance.

3. Consider investing in education

For more widespread policy changes, like procedural shifts, plan to provide education or training resources to your team. Many HR professionals see a lack of adoption occurring because the new requirements were not adequately explained or because employees don’t feel capable of following the new guidelines.

For example, let’s say you are crafting policies as a result of many employees’ hybrid work preferences. In the last few months, you’ve noticed a decrease in employee productivity, and leadership has decided to require the use of time-tracking software. This situation may cause stress; employees could feel they’re being too heavily supervised, they may worry a mistake in time tracking could result in unnecessary repercussions, or they may not be familiar with this kind of technology. In this case, providing live training for how to access and utilize the program would be beneficial, and you might even consider offering a video walk-through or how-to guide they can access on their own time. Other policy changes, such as compliance requirements, might require less direct technology training. In this case, an innovative solution for learning and training can supplement your policy adoption strategies.

4. Make policies easily available

It’s good practice to keep policies in an easy-to-access location, including any notes about available training or other noteworthy communication. First, you’ll want to collect attestation from your workforce — essentially, a signature (digital or physical) that acknowledges the guidelines are known and will be adhered to. This type of documentation will help in the future if a specific employee is refusing to obey a particular policy.

After obtaining proof of acknowledgment, update your employee handbook to include new policies. If you provide a digital copy, this is simple. If you provide physical copies, print new pages and encourage employees to add them to their handbooks. You could also consider making policies available on your intranet for ease. 

5. Respond to concerns

Finally, even after building a very solid policy education and adoption strategy, your final step will be to offer support to your workforce. As mentioned earlier, providing employees an easy way to anonymously document their concerns goes a long way, but a variety of reasons make new policy rollouts tricky. 

Understand why employees struggle with change like this: fear of the unknown, distrust of management’s intentions, being unclear on the important reasons the change is needed, and lacking the skill necessary to deploy new procedures are just a few of the explanations you might come across. Each of these can be remedied with proper care, and many can be avoided through clear communication and training. Determine if you could better support your employees before taking corrective action. 

A final tip: Look to your managers. If your leadership isn’t adhering to new policies — like neglecting to update their out-of-office calendar or using their cell phone at work — then it paves a clear path for their subordinates to dismiss the policy, too.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box

Regular communication, outlets for employee grievances, an empathetic approach, and a robust training strategy are just a few of the avenues available to HR experts who need to roll out new policies to their workforce. There is no one-size-fits-all method to supporting your team, so we encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to policy education and adoption. The process doesn’t have to be daunting, and the StarCompliance team is here to help along the way.