A policy is a predetermined established guideline towards the attainment of accepted goals and objectives. Such guidelines facilitate properly designed efforts to accomplish the strategic intent. Policy is not a strategy or tactics. Strategy is a proposed course of action to exert a far-reaching impact on the ability of the enterprise to attain its goals. Strategy relates to means.
A policy can be differentiated from objective, programmes and procedures. Policy relates to the fundamental framework of principles and rules which are used as reference information for decision making and provide a constant pattern of decisions and structured thought process. Objectives are specific goals or aim, preferably in quantitative terms and can be considered as something which an individual or group seeks to accomplish. Hence, an objective is something to accomplish, while a policy is a guide to accomplish it.
Again policy is different from procedure, as procedure defines the manner or way of accomplishing something, i.e., it is the process and method. While policy forms the part of a framework of general principles, a procedure necessarily indicates how to do something and direct employees towards the accomplishment of goal.
Policies are also differentiated from programmes. Programmes are developed on the basis of policies with a view of implementing them and accordingly, programmes involve one additional step beyond policies to simplify the decisions. The execution of programmes leads to specific actions including practices and procedures.
Policies cover a wide variety of subject. A comprehensive coverage of policies embrace any action or decision, taken by either employees or management in relation to the working environment, the rights and responsibilities of employees and management and the action of both parties.
Thus, one policy may be a statement of standards for employee attendance and also a statement of management obligations in grievance administration. One policy may explain conditions under which loans would be granted, whereas, another may indicate conditions under which an employee is subjected to discharge.
Procedures prescribe the details for carrying out policies. They spell out specific rules and regulations, the steps, time, place and personnel responsible for implementing policies. Procedures also clarify what is to be done in particular circumstances.
Purposes of Policy:
Statement of policy constitutes criteria for making decisions. They render decision making easier, more routine. They permit decisions on problems without detailed analysis and thus facilitate saving of precious time.
Policies provide a clear idea of what management and employees can expect. Therefore, policies promote consistency and fairness of action under conditions that are similar in character and eliminate any bias in employee-related decisions. This way, policies help in avoiding confusion and misunderstanding.
Origins of and Responsibility for Policy:
Policies may originate from anywhere inside an organization or from the external sources—the community, state and national legislation, changes in the economy and even international forces, such as war-time or defense conditions. Internally, policies have their inception in employees’ suggestions or complaints, in collective bargaining and at any level of management staff or line management staff.
The approval of new or changed policies ultimately comes from the top management. However, the responsibility for administration rests with the line. The concerned department of an organization recommends policies and policy changes that it considers appropriate for the benefit of the organization.
The department also has to assist in communicating policies to those who should know about them. There are many ways of communicating the policies like, standing orders, house journals and circulars or through documented policy manuals.
Considerations in Developing Policies:
In formulating policies, the first consideration is the objective or purpose. Operationally, it is also necessary to consider the economic (costs) and benefits in relation to the size and complexity of the organization. Then comes the need for determining the policies’ acceptability to the management and to the employees and this depends to a great extent on its administrative feasibility and its fairness to the employees.
Due to an unfortunate tendency to think of policies as formulae that obviate the need for careful thought, it is necessary to anticipate circumstances that may arise subsequently in administration. Imagination is required here, as well as knowledge of operating problems. Supervisors are in a good position to aid in projecting exigencies that can arise under a particular policy.
For Human Resource Management or HRM-related policies, unions have a tremendous impact on policy formulation. They seek certain policies; they seek to alter management policies (e.g., in overtime payment); and they cause concerns without unions to change policy as a defense against unions. Some unions’ influence on policy administration appears to be beneficial, whereas, some are harmful to employee relations.
Guidelines for Policy Formulation:
A number of guidelines for policy writing have been well established and are worth enumerating.
A statement of purpose or rationale that helps to understand and ensures acceptance of the policy.
Choice of words should be geared to the educational level of the group for whom the policy is intended. Wording should avoid irritating expressions that antagonize, denote inferiority or cast aspersion, e.g., ‘You are forbidden.’
A warm, understanding tone helps to show the interest and concern of management. This means avoidance of legalistic language as much as possible.
An outlined form may be useful for management reference and application. But outlines are difficult for employees to follow; they repel reading and are cold and lifeless. Relatively short paragraphs, some use of underlines and adequate spacing (double rather than single) encourage reading.
Short sentences are better than long ones linked together with ‘whereas’, ‘provided’, etc., and simple sentences are easier to read and comprehend than the complex or compound ones.
Communicating the Policies:
Management has a definite responsibility to see that employees become familiar with any policies that affect them.
Written explanations of changes in policy, reinforced by oral discussion, are minimal for policy communication. All of the written media found in organizations may be used—employee hand books, bulletin boards, company periodicals, etc. In orientation sessions for new and old employees, oral explanation can be accompanied by visual aids such as film strips, placards and funnel boards.
Uniformity in administration is desirable when circumstances are similar among the various individuals and groups concerned. Customs amongst various groups, practices that have been in operation for some time and needs of different groups of employees, etc., influence decisions in regard to degree and extent of uniformity. Also, the questions of fairness and employees’ attitudes toward concession in specific cases should be weighed. Long standing policy differences between office and shop, for example, are under constant fire from unions.
Questions of rigidity of administration and consistency or flexibility of interpretation must also be faced. In weighing special consideration to an employee or penalty for a violation, many factors must be taken into account, such as, work record, demonstrated capability, history of relationships, impact on other and on future situations, knowledge at the individual’s disposal, past practices, responsibility of management, nature and frequency of the request or act, obligations to the organization, to the employee and to society, respective values, reasons, ameliorating circumstances and so.