HR Administration

Policy management: What is it and what does it look like for HR?

By Gustav Anderson

Sep. 8, 2022

Summary

  • Policy management involves the creation and maintenance of administrative procedures and guidelines within an organization — More

  • There are four circumstances in which HR management should introduce new policy — More

  • Policy management automation is becoming increasingly common with frontline HR teams — More


Below the surface of any organization is a process that, perhaps while not the most glamorous, serves to create order, fairness, and standardization. Few people like to talk about it, and even fewer enjoy directly working with it. 

This, of course, is policy management. While sometimes an afterthought, its importance cannot be overstated and it ought to be carried out efficiently and effectively throughout a workforce. 

But let’s back up a second. How about we first pinpoint a clear definition for policy management? Beyond that, where is policy management even going, particularly for HR teams? And how do you automate it? Well, let’s take a look.

 

What is policy management? 

Policy management involves the creation, distribution, and maintenance of different administrative procedures and guidelines within an organization. Modern approaches to policy management seek to not only manage but also automate how policies are applied across different business functions. 

The purpose of policy management is to essentially ensure compliance, reduce risk, and protect stakeholders at every turn of a business’s operations. It achieves this by introducing the standardization and centralization of different policies in the workplace. Implementing and properly following these policies creates an audit trail that can protect an organization from all kinds of liability. 

 

The different kinds of policy management

Since policy management spans a wide variety of industries, what it looks like can change drastically – this naturally obfuscates how one should manage it properly within their own business.  

You’ll typically find that the organizations most concerned with compliance and risk management tend to lean heavily on policy management – think local government, public safety, IT, and legal services. However, there is a certain kind of policy management that often gets overlooked: hourly employee HR.

While HR policy management for hourly workers may not be as technical as IT policy management or as critical as public safety policy management, it nonetheless affects the lives of countless hardworking people and frontline businesses. To understand it is one thing; to get it right is another matter entirely. Let’s take a closer look at what policy and procedure management mean for your human resources department. 

 

HR policy management for hourly employees

Streamlining the creation and application of HR policies is becoming increasingly important for hourly workforces, particularly in hospitality, retail, and QSR. While quite extensive, HR policy management in these areas is extremely important to get right in order to protect both employers and employees alike.  

Unfortunately, frontline employees can often experience a disconnect with HR when it comes to understanding and following policy; this can lead to breaches in labor compliance, codes of conduct, and much more. To avoid these issues, it’s best to understand where your company needs to implement policy as well as how to easily communicate and follow that policy. 

Here are some of the most common areas where HR policies are put into place for hourly workers:

  • Leave and time off: Covering such things as vacation, sick leave, and holidays, time off policies should be clearly communicated in an employee handbook and fall in line with state and federal labor laws. More than this, employees should be able to easily interact with and utilize leave policies within a scheduling system. 
  • Meal and rest breaks: Every state has its own laws regarding the length and frequency of breaks in the workplace. HR policy needs to account for these laws by transparently meeting all requirements throughout the scheduling process. 
  • Time tracking and pay: Employees should always have an understanding of how their work hours are being tracked, as well as what their pay rate is, the frequency of paydays, and any special procedures for holiday pay, overtime rates, or absenteeism. At the same time, management needs to be able to apply and follow these policies across their workforce accurately. 
  • Attendance and tardiness: Attendance policies can vary greatly between organizations. Clear guidelines mapping out how tardiness, unexcused absences, call-outs, and no-shows will be interpreted should be communicated to all employees and closely followed. 
  • Job and shift qualifications: Some organizations may require specific training, licenses, or qualifications to work specific shifts/roles. It helps to have policy that manages, records, and enforces these requirements within the scheduling process so that work standards are met and laws are followed. 
  • Training and handbook acknowledgments: Organizations should have a central repository of training material and other important documentation for employees to refer to whenever needed. More than this, they should have a simple attestation process and a clear paper trail to ensure all workers are complying with the required materials. 
  • Disciplinary actions and termination: As a tremendously sensitive area of employment, termination procedures and discipline documentation should be clear, concise, and followed very closely. Effective policy management here prevents lawsuits and removes the volatility of human emotion from difficult situations. 
  • Tipping: F&B and hospitality businesses can choose from a variety of unique ways to distribute tips, but it should be based on sound and accessible policy. 
  • Overtime: Employees should understand their overtime rates as well as their employer’s tolerance for overtime occurrence. Moreover, the employer should have procedures in place to closely approve, track, and pay overtime accruals. 
  • Incident reports: Without strict procedures and reminders in place, it is sometimes easy to forget about documentation amidst the chaos of a workplace incident. However, it is crucial for liability reasons that organizations have policy in place to remind and guide employees through the reporting process. 

 

When to introduce new HR policies

While the purpose of HR policy is to introduce order to how people are managed in the workplace, it would be a mistake to assume that all policy is static and unchanging in nature. In fact, according to a Forbes quote from veteran CHRO Rohit Manchua, “Policies ought to be living documents that are reflective of collective human consciousness … [they] ought to be updated on an ongoing basis.” These updates should be relevant to employee sentiments and should align with the overall strategic initiatives of the company. 

Indeed, examples of policy management updates can be seen everywhere. In 2019 a study of C-suite executives in the healthcare industry found that more than 50% of those surveyed would be revising their privacy policies and conducting new training regiments to comply with new data privacy regulations in the industry. 

So this begs the question, when is the right time to introduce new policy? Well, here are a few circumstances according to Forbes’ Human Resource Council:

  1. During the launch of a strategic initiative

  2. During growth and decline periods

  3. In response to employee feedback

  4. If an urgent matter arises

HR managers should use any of these situations as an opportunity to review, rework, and roll out new policies and procedures to guide their hourly workforce. 

But the work should not stop there. Beyond simply updating policy, managers should utilize the four circumstances listed above to introduce automation in any way they can to improve policy adherence and streamline procedural workflows. 

 

Policy management automation – the future for HR teams?

Particularly in larger organizations, policy management can often swell into an unwieldy behemoth filled with red tape and bottleneck. Ensuring all employees and managers follow carefully planned policy procedures is no easy task, often resulting in countless errors when done completely manually. It’s not enough anymore to simply write down policies and hand out booklets. 

Luckily there seems to be an emerging answer for these HR issues. 

In recent years there has been a growing push to automate many policy management functions. Things like attendance strikes, overtime approvals, meal breaks, qualification-based scheduling, and more are now being handed over to policy management software. 

These tools often come with a high degree of configuration, allowing HR professionals to create and manage nearly any kind of policy workflow. Automation like this reduces human error, increases employee accountability, and speeds up administrative tasks at every point of the policy lifecycle. 

Perhaps most importantly, policy management automation understands the living and breathing nature of policies – they cannot sit idle in a notebook collecting dust. Instead,  policies and procedures are automatically applied to your employee scheduling and time tracking processes to ensure compliance and improve employee engagement

For more information about how to perfectly sync policy management with things like scheduling, check out the free webinar below about employee call-out policies:

Webinar: The Best Way to Replace Call-Outs

Gustav is a communications officer with Workforce.com. His past work includes media outreach for a Guinness World Record team and market research published by the University of Maine. He has a keen interest in storytelling, frontline labor issues, and all things relating to pigeons.

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