Think before you consult when writing policies

Top view of co-workers planning a strategy Free Photo
Business photograph designed by Pressfoto –

Employee consultation has become a ‘sacred cow’ when writing policies and procedures. There’s a tendency for organisations to involve all possible stakeholders so that everyone can have their say when defining how things work in an organisation. It’s promoted as a way to create an engaged and empowered workforce; an antidote to a command and control culture.

But consultation takes time and can be counter productive. Countless hours can be lost in document reviews and meetings, sometimes with little benefit.

Yet consultation communicates that you and your organisation value people and respect their point of view, knowledge and experience.

So, think before you run every policy through the same consultation process. Discern which documents will benefit from consultation, and who should be involved.

Consider policies in three broad groups:

1. Policies where consultation is pointless

If you are developing policies or procedure to implement a non-negotiable directive from the board, or a piece of legislation, consultation may not be helpful. Just write the document and get on with it. Consultation in this situation may even be harmful – it can raise the expectation of negotiation and input when there is none. You could lose credibility.

2. Policies where input from others is essential

Sometimes subject matter expertise resides in a number of people. You’ll need to consult to find out what is happening, or the best way of doing something. Find the right people and involve them in every stage of drafting and review. You’ll end up with a richer outcome by listening to appropriate stakeholders.

3. Policies where people just want to have their say

There are some policies in an organisation that stir the passions – like the ‘car policy’. People want to be heard but full consultation is not mission critical. When developing policies like this, I often invite comment but don’t run a full consultation process. Of course, if you invite comment you need to consider it – revise the policy or provide other feedback.

(this blog inspired by a conversation with Adam Leonard, General Manager Human Resources, Anglicare)