What is the Secret of a Great HR Manual?
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What is the Secret of a Great HR Manual?

by Ashok Grover

With ready-made drafts available for HR manuals, isn't it extremely easy to prepare one? That's what one thinks... only later, to start wondering why such an exhaustive HR policy manual has created more problems than it solved!

These days it has become super easy to prepare your company’s HR manual. Ready-made drafts are available and you only need to fill up a few blanks like the name of your organization and do little tweaking… and lo, your HR manual is ready! What happens thereafter is really not important at this stage. Only later, you start wondering why such an exhaustive HR policy manual has created more problems than it solved.

In fact, it is a widespread myth that policies are all the same and what you really need is a fine copy-paste job. Do you remember the story of a factory where an important production process malfunctioned, and the management hired an expert to set it right. The little old man went to the spot, put his ear to the machine, closed his eyes to concentrate on the sound and then walked to another spot. He picked up a little hammer, hit a pipe with it - and the machine was back in order.

However, the manager was quite upset when a bill amounting to $100 was presented – A hundred dollars to hit a pipe with a hammer, he exclaimed! He demanded that the expert specify the bill.

The old man complied, and sent the details:

"Hitting a pipe with a hammer (one time): $0.25
Knowing where and how to hit: $99.75"

Why am I telling you this story? Just to emphasize the point that even if you say that all policies are alike with a difference of 5-10% only, the importance is in knowing which 5-10%. And believe me, it does not come sitting in your office or searching the internet.

Now, before we dwell any further, let us address the question why are you formulating policies? One reason could be to keep the organization in compliance with legal requirements and provide protection against employment claims. In such cases, the policy may be, more or less, a standardized one with very little scope for maneuvering. Here, I am talking about the other reasons such as:

  • To communicate organizational values and expectations for how things are done in your organization
  • To document and implement best practices appropriate to the organization
  • To support consistent treatment to all staff members promoting fairness and transparency
  • To help management to make decisions that follow guidelines in a uniform and predictable framework.
  • To provide a perceived predictable and fair environment to employees

A careful consideration of the above reasons will reveal that it is extremely important to involve the affected stakeholders (employees) in the process if you want to build a culture of trust, where employees focus largely on performance.

As such, irrespective of whether the job is undertaken in-house or through a third party (consultant), it is extremely important to set up a mechanism to involve your people in the process. As an expert, even if you know the best about the best practices, it is your people who will help you in the best implementation once you make it “their” policies!

Ashok Grover is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has over four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.

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