With the dawn of a new year, many of us are compelled to try to improve. For many businesses, this compulsion means implementing new workplace policies or changing existing ones. Maybe you work for one of these businesses and already have identified the policies you want to add or change. Or maybe you have just started the process of deciding what changes will be made. Either way, it is important to ensure that the new policies or policy changes are not only the right ones for your business but also ones you’ll be able to sustain over time.
Changing policies is only worth it if they are sustainable
Implementing new workplace policies or changing existing ones can be a great way to improve employee productivity, enhance engagement, and/or control unwanted behavior. However, changes to workplace policies are really only worthwhile if they are sustainable over time. Failure to sustain policy changes can have several negative consequences. For example:
- it can create confusion among employees and supervisors, some of who may still be operating under the new policy and some who may not;
- it can undermine your ability to get employees on board for future policy changes;
- it can cause you to lose unemployment claims; and
- it can expose you to greater risk for discrimination and other employment-related claims.
In most cases, it is better not to implement new policies or change existing ones than it is to implement them and then abandon them shortly thereafter, or worse, apply them sporadically. Below are three steps to help you ensure you will sustain new policies or policy changes and not prematurely abandoned them.
Tip #1: Take time to plan out new policies or policy changes
As with most changes in life, the better the plan for implementing a new or changed workplace policy, the more likely it is that the change will be successful and sustainable. The reason planning makes changes more successful is that it requires the decision-makers to stop and think. It is not unusual for business owners or managers to face a problem with employees they want resolved immediately; however, acting impulsively in these situations can lead to policies the owners or managers are not prepared to enforce in the long term.
By taking time to plan, decision-makers have time to consider the effects of the change, both positive and negative. They can then tweak the plan to minimize its negative effects while maximizing the positive ones, or they can decide to abandon the plan altogether. It also gives them the opportunity to identify and assess any potential legal liability that may be hidden under the surface of their desired policy.
Tip #2: Make sure that you aren’t biting off more than can you can chew
One of the biggest reasons new policies or policy changes fail is because they are too ambitious, too comprehensive, or too dramatic. If your human and capital infrastructure is not adequate or sufficiently prepared for the magnitude of a change, you will struggle to maintain the change over time. Thus, it is important to take the time to assess the capabilities of your workforce to help you decide whether your proposed policy change is too big.
Additionally, you must consider whether managers and supervisors will have the time, patience, capacity, and stamina to enforce the policy changes. If demands on managers and supervisors are already such that they will struggle to implement new policies or policy changes, it may be best to reduce the scope of the change or postpone the change until the timing for the change is better.
Tip #3: Publish any new policies or policy changes
If a policy is worth implementing or changing, it is worth taking the time to put it down in writing and publishing it to employees. Some policy changes may seem to be too small to justify writing them down or perhaps the policy-maker just doesn’t feel like there is enough time to do so, but neither of these are valid reasons to avoid writing them down. By writing down the policy, you reduce the chances that it will be misinterpreted or that it will change organically overtime. It also serves as a tool to ensure that all supervisors are applying the changes the same to all employees while providing great evidence when employees file wage and discrimination claims. By putting your new policies or policy changes in writing, you help ensure that the policy you want stays that way over time.
If you are contemplating introducing new workplace policies or changing new ones, it is worth your time to make sure that your policy and those that will enforce it are prepared to sustain the enforcement. Failure to sustain a change may lead to unfavorable consequences. By properly planning, ensuring that the change is not too big, and putting the change in writing, you will maximize your chances of successfully sustaining your policy.