David Saint

Dec 5, 2017, 10:41 AM

Downloadable policies – just papering over the cracks?

How many times have you heard conversations along the following lines:

“Have we got a policy on Fire Safety / Diversity / Working from home / treating donors fairly?”
“I don’t think so – see what you can find and download from the internet.”

In our increasingly complex society, we now need an astonishing array of policies to cover every conceivable (and occasionally inconceivable!) eventuality. And in our increasingly ‘virtual’ society, most if not all of these are available on line – either at a cost, or free of charge, or simply by pinching someone else’s.

It often seems that ‘having a policy’ is all that is required. But of course that’s only the start. A policy is a principle or set of principles that guides how an organisation will behave – and that applies to trustees, Chief Executives, all staff, volunteers – ands in some cases beneficiaries as well.

So ‘having’ a policy in a file, or on the shared drive, or even on the website (so others can copy yours too!) is only the start. Knowing, understanding and living the policy is what matters.

For example, it used to be the case that nobody on building sites wore hard hats. Then a few workers started to wear them, and a few employers would make them available. In due course people were ‘advised’ or ‘requested’ to wear a hard hat, but still it was a matter of choice. Now it’s a matter of policy, and today, just about every construction worker (certainly those employed by the large firms) wears a hard hat. It hasn’t just become mandatory (with prominent signs like “No hard hat, no job”) – it’s become second nature, a way of life.

Have you looked at your policies recently? It might be timely to ask yourselves the following questions:

  • How many policies have we got, and what are they for?
  • Are there any policies we need, but don’t have?
  • Are there policies we have, but don’t need?
  • Are they well written, easy to understand, and practical to implement?
  • Are they easy to find – by anybody who might need to find them?
  • Does everybody who ought to follow them know they exist, where to find them, and what they say?
  • Most importantly – can you see the principles espoused by each of these policies lived out in your organisation, every day?

‘Having a policy’ is not about ticking a box on a compliance checklist, or providing a document to satisfy a funder in a grant application. It is about being clear about how we will behave towards each other and towards those outside the organisation. It is about protecting people, protecting resources, and protecting reputation.

Do your policies merely paper over the cracks, or do they add real value to your organisation? Take the time to check now, or
contact us if you would like an objective assessment, together with a practical plan for making your policies a lived reality.

David Saint

For advice on a more responsible approach to policies, get in touch

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