Communicating to employees: Who follows company directives?


WASHINGTON, July 15, 2014 — Do your employees fail to follow company directives? It is frustrating when they don’t, and many managers ask themselves, “why won’t they?”

Company directives are dry reading. They tend to be uninteresting, except for directives about pay and benefits that directly apply to every employee. Company policies on social media usage, tardiness, Americans with Disabilities Act, performance evaluation, report writing, marketing, and so on are not interesting.

In addition, reading is not popular with younger employees these days, particularly if the reading material goes beyond 160 characters.

Company directives are often important. The first step to understanding why employees are violating company policies is to evaluate their length and their relevance. Do they go on for hundreds of pages? Are they central to understanding how the workplace functions?

If yes, keep reading. If no, the first step is revise them in order to ensure they capture the most important rules and regulations and to ensure they are concise.

Once company directives are concise and on point, a verbal review procedure is necessary. For example, a new employee orientation highlighting the company directives is a good first step.

The next step is to implement a morning or weekly briefing in which policies are reviewed, especially new policies or procedures. Many companies assume that employees read and understand company directives. Assuming — enough said.

I am familiar with one organization that requires employees to read new policies when they are issued. New directives are distributed via email, which states, “all employees are expected to read company directive 1.4 by close of business today.” Most employees do read the new directives. However, and this is a very big however, they all interpret the policy differently when reading it on their own in their own workspace.

To combat this problem, use a webinar or telephone to communicate and discuss the new policy with each employee by a specific date. This will ensure consistent interpretation and implementation. If you have many employees, then the new company directive must be rolled out from top down; train senior management to train their supervisors, and so on until all relevant personnel have read and understand the policy.

What can go wrong? If employees do not understand the relative importance of a policy or procedure, the policy, no matter how well it is implemented, will not be followed.

The solution is to teach your employees to take ownership of the policy by explaining:

  1. The purpose of the policy;
  2. The positive aspects of the policy;
  3. The relative importance of the policy to the company, client or to the employee (if there are too many policies, important policies will always be diluted);
  4. The consequences of error (oftentimes, when employees know what will happen if the policy is violated, they take responsibility for it);
  5. Who are the significant people impacted by the policy; (This brings out the protective nature in people).

To reiterate: our world of work can no longer be managed by means of massive policy and procedures manuals. The new generation of workers will not read them and interpret them as we expect. We must reduce the quantity and complexity of our policies, shorten their length, ensure they are accessible electronically, highlight key points and verbally reinforce them.

There are always those who violate policies even when they know them. The procedures discussed here will minimize that problem and help those who care to do their jobs correctly.

This week’s prescription: Change your methods for implementing company directives and you will get a much higher percentage of compliance.

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