Policy Management in 2022: Helping Managers Shape the Future Working Environment
The issues they are thinking about include the impact of hybrid-working on the business, the impact of technology, and how best to maintain trust and productivity.
The research highlighted some interesting themes. Firstly, hybrid and remote working have not had a material impact on worker productivity. In over half the responses, working away from the office has increased productivity, with people avoiding the need for commuting, and the normal distractions of the office, although that is not to say that companies will be shuttering offices wholesale.
Another theme centred on culture and values, and how best to instil them in a more complex working environment. The respondents recognised the need for a clearly defined purpose and a precise set of values, so that ‘all compasses point north’ regardless of where people regularly work. Companies have worked hard to keep their staff updated, through online Town Halls, regular Zoom meetings, etc. That said, the research suggests that managers felt they still had some way to go in order to ensure employees were always aligned with the needs and interests of the wider business.
Greater trust between employees and their direct supervisors
A related issue for senior managers was the need for greater trust between employees and their direct supervisors. When people engage primarily over Zoom, the phone, or on email, it is easy for professional relationships to change. People on both sides can begin to perceive situations differently away from the office. While delivery is easy to monitor through emails and documentation, trying to ensure that management and employees remain on the same page away from the office tends to be more difficult. Questions can easily bubble up in people’s minds. Is my staff just watching TV all day? Are they taking long lunches? Is my manager really aware of what I am doing and how much work I am putting in?
This situation can lead to friction between managers and their staff, it can reduce engagement, and ultimately reduce productivity and lead to higher staff turnover.
There are several steps managers can put in place to address this. Being mindful of the issue can help significantly and taking the opportunity to arrange face-to-face and in-person team meetings regularly is also very valuable.
Effective policy management can provide guidance and assurance
Another remedy is effective policy management. Managers have an obligation to themselves, the business, and their staff to ensure their employees fully understand what is expected of them in terms of professional conduct, how they manage data and IT security, how to follow health and safety guidance, and much else besides.
Effective policy management can help provide guidance and assurance for staff about the company’s expectations of behaviour. It also provides assurance for managers that their staff know what is expected of them and that they apply it. This helps instil the culture and values managers want their staff to adopt and can equally instil trust by showing managers, and their staff, that business expectations are understood and followed, without anyone needing to check constantly.
While policy management might not be new, several lessons are clear from working with our customers and industry practitioners over the last couple of years, in helping them address the operational and cultural challenges of hybrid-working.
Centralised Policy Library
Firstly, a centralised policy library for the whole business will help everyone access the latest guidance on important issues while also helping policy managers ensure only the up-to-date documents are in circulation.
Enhanced Workflow Capabilities
Secondly, use workflow capabilities, leveraging a policy library, to enable policy enhancements to be drafted, reviewed, and published swiftly and efficiently. Automated training and assessment capabilities allow staff to remain current on changing requirements, at a pace that suits the way they work most effectively.
Automated Reporting Tools
Lastly, automated reporting tools provide visibility at the Board level that staff are following the proper procedures despite being widely dispersed.