What does a policy look like?

 

Policies can take many shapes and forms, depending upon the audience, internal company requirements, and external regulations. Generally, you want to make policies “consumable,” meaning that your target audience will have easy access to your policies, be able to read and understand them quickly, and use them often.

In today’s fast paced world, policies need to be in a format that places the most important information in front of the people when they need it. First, you need to think about who you are trying to reach, and then the types of documents that they are looking at daily. Ask yourself: can I add my policy to any documents already in use?

Choosing an alternate format

You will want to select the best method of conveying your policy elements to your target audience. Consider the Data Classification Policy – this is not a policy that users typically read on a daily basis, yet this important information needs to be referenced, especially when handling sensitive and confidential documents. This type of policy may actually be best “written” in a one-page matrix:

 

Are your target audience members filling out a form? If so, it may be easiest to add policy column(s) or row(s) to this document so that users will know what is expected of them as they complete this form:

You can also help your audience make policy decisions by guiding them through the required process:

Easy Access

And finally, put everything that you can online. Don’t have the software to put all of your policies online? That’s OK. You can still find ways of creating electronic documents, such as:

Build a form in your Help Desk ticketing system

Many Help Desk ticketing systems have a feature that allows you to create your own forms. You can add language that assists users with completing these forms, including policy elements. If you cannot build forms directly within the ticketing system, you may be able to create the forms in a program such as Microsoft Word and then attach them to the appropriate ticket.

Utilize your employee Intranet

Partner with your HR department to put policy documents on the Intranet home page so that users can download and reference your policies whenever they need to. Having policy documents in one centralized location will assist with maintaining the most up to date versions for your users.

Take advantage of email

Email is probably the most utilized program in your company. If you send out emails that reference policies, try to keep them short and provide a link to the more comprehensive document. Long emails are generally not read, and even if the users don’t read the entire policy document on the spot, they will likely retain the message to be able to refer to it in the future.

Emails have the advantage of supplying a ‘read’ receipt or adding wording to require a response.

Final thoughts

While some external regulations and maybe auditors will require a specific format for your policies, by and large you can get pretty creative and use a wide variety of formats to get your policy information in front of users on a regular basis.

If you find that most policies in your company are collecting dust or are only being read once a year for an annual policy acknowledgement requirement, don’t be afraid to ask around and find out if they can be changed. After all, the most important thing is that all users know what is expected of them, what they are allowed to do, and what they are not allowed to do – at all times. However you do it is largely up to you.