Modern Policy Compliance Issues

Although compliance usually translates as following judicial decision, statutes and regulations, compliance in modern times has added a new limb: policy compliance. The heart of the modern governance structure, be it civil or corporate, is policy formulation and execution. In the military, on the other hand, vague policies have been and never will be of any use. Obedience is codified by martial-law and threat of court-martial.

The crucial question for your business is what benefits are gained from policies. Some of the positives are:

  • Treating similar fact situations consistently
  • Publicising consequences for behaviour in advance
  • Allowing certainty for employee activities / planning / leave
  • Establishing market leading practices
  • Avoiding tort claims by establishing the discharge of relevant duties of care

These are powerful arguments. On the other hand, however, lazy, incompetent, and non-confident managers hide behind policies as a shield against making real decisions. Do you really want your employees to hear “Company policy says this” endlessly from their manager? If you want your employees to show flexibility and initiative in the workplace, you need to be flexible on their behalf. No competent manager would ever assign a task to an employee that was not the most productive use of that employee’s time. It is usually not the content of the policy, but the discretion of its application that separates the senior managers from those destined for middle management redundancy.

If you never empathise with your employees; give directions for a purpose other than in the best interests of the company; never use discretion (or at least state a case to senior management when you feel discretion is justified) or; impose polices only to act differently yourself: then your job is on borrowed time.  It might well be said that it is good policy to have appropriate policies, but it is bad policy blindly to follow those policies.