Developing policies

A healthy, well-run organisation will develop key policies to cover strategic (long-term/high-level) and operational (practical, day-to-day) matters. Policies are created for a definite purpose and linked to the group's mission, culture and values.

Once developed, policies should be reviewed regularly to reflect change within the group and within the community. A clear process of reviewing and updating policies will ensure everyone affected by a policy has the latest version and all policies are implemented and communicated throughout the organisation.

Policies should be:

  • easily understood and written in plain, jargon-free language
  • maintained in electronic and paper formats
  • contained in a policy manual with all the organisation's other policies
  • available at all board meetings
  • accessible at all times to all staff or volunteers
  • regularly reviewed and updates notified

When writing policies, procedures, codes, rules and guidelines, do:

  • think about your organisation’s requirements
  • think about issues that have come up in the past, and how you might avoid them happening again
  • think about any questions you have had from staff – “How do I...?”, “Can I...?", “Am I allowed to...?”, “What would happen if I...?”
  • consider policies and procedures that you know other employers in your industry have that might be useful
  • ask your employees (and unions) if they think that there are gaps or areas that could be clarified by policy, procedure etc.
  • think about any legislation or common law that may apply to this area, check with your legal advisors if you aren’t sure
  • think about what is fair and reasonable
  • think about the workplace culture you want to maintain or create
  • think about how you will make sure that people follow the document you’ve created
  • use relevant documents other people have written as a starting point if you are stuck (but make sure that what you come up with suits your own organisation)

When writing policies, procedures, codes, rules and guidelines, don’t:

  • assume that just because you know what you want your employees to do in a particular area that they will think the same way that you do
  • produce paperwork and rules for the sake of it, all your policies should be needed, for example, if you don’t issue company credit cards, you don’t need a credit card usage policy even if you had one in a previous organisation

When the policy, procedure, code, rule or guideline is drafted:

  • you should generally ask staff and unions to give you feedback (unless the procedure etc. is minor or has no room for flexibility or changes), and consider their views before you release the final version
  • bring the document to the attention of staff who have to follow it (and send a copy to the union); this can be done in many ways, for example, by displaying it on staff noticeboards and on the organisation intranet, discussing it in team meetings and putting it in manuals that all staff have access to, emailing it to staff or giving them hardcopies
  • diarise a suitable review date to make sure that it is still fit for purpose

Source:  Employment New Zealand - https://www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies/what-are-workplace-policies/

Risks arise when policies are:

  • developed in a vacuum, without input from all stakeholders
  • developed in an unplanned or retrospective, such as to meet the requirements of a funding proposal or audit
  • taken from another organisation without being adapted
  • not part of day-to-day operation or are used only when problems arise, or to show funders or auditors
  • obsolete because they have not kept up with changes in the group or the community
  • version control policies not updated or notified regularly so staff (and others) operate from old versions.

Tikanga framework for developing policies

An example of a Māori framework for setting policies or developing the kaupapa and tikanga of an organisation is provided by Te Wānanga o Raukawa:  https://www.wananga.com/ng-kaupapa.html - an overview of Kaupapa and their expression and https://www.wananga.com/user/inline/2/Guiding_Kaupapa.pdf 

'The basic idea is that through Karakia, Moteatea, Whākatauki and Whakapapa, our World View is described and a set of Kaupapa are drawn from which the culture is founded. These are the bedrock, the foundation of the culture. Growing from within the Kaupapa are our Tikanga, just like a tree springs from Papatuanuku. The tikanga are actions, methods, processes, policies etc. that are aligned and consistent with the foundation Kaupapa. All tikanga purporting to be Māori should find their bases in Kaupapa.'

This Māori framework is represented as follows:

 

Policy and procedures development process

1. Set overall policy objectives

These are the overall objectives, or guiding principles, that underlie your policies and need to be kept in mind when developing the details of your policies. They link to the mission and values of the organisation.

For example, the objectives of Xxxx group's policies are:

  • Xxxx services are accessible and appropriate to its community
  • Xxxx supports the Treaty of Waitangi and the rights of Māori as tangata whenua
  • Xxxx is accountable and responsive to its community
  • Xxxx has effective management and governance arrangements
  • Xxxx has co-ordinated, planned and reliable services
  • Xxxx values the role of its various stakeholders, including staff, volunteers, clients, and community members
  • Xxxx will represent and, where appropriate, advocate on behalf of its community
  • Xxxx welcomes feedback, including complaints, which it will address in a timely, fair and equitable manner.

2. Develop detailed policies

Step

Tips

1.  Describe the issue the policy needs to address.
  • keep it simple.

2.  Consult key stakeholders, experts or conduct research as appropriate.

  • who will be/may be affected by the policy, or the issue? what do they have to say?
  • don't just consult the professional experts.

3.  Identify the ranges of policy options.

  • keep this practical.

4.  Consider the internal and external environment (e.g. vision statement, government rules).

  • consider legal requirements (such as health and safety) and any relevant standards (e.g. Child, Youth and Family (CYF) Standards for Approval).

5.  Draft policy (in written form).

 

  • use clear, simple and unambiguous language
  • have a set format for your policies.

6.  Present to board for consultation/adoption.

  • board (governing body) is responsible for approving the policies.

7.  Set up systems to ensure policy is applied on an ongoing basis.

 

  • it is management's responsibility to make sure procedures are in place so that the policy is communicated, understood and followed
  • have an up-to-date policies and procedures manual
  • include policies for staff (including volunteer) and induction training.

8.  Review at an agreed date.

 

  • set an achievable review cycle e.g. three years, unless circumstances change and an earlier review is required
  • some policies may need to be reviewed more frequently than others due to changes in the external environment.

3. Develop/review procedures

Procedures are the steps that put a policy into effect and let everyone in the organisation know how that should be done. In practice, the procedures are often developed at the same time as the policies and need to be reviewed at the same time as the policies. Management should be responsible for developing and circulating the procedures.

Checklist of policies and procedures

A group may need to some, or all, of these policies and procedures:

Governance

  • Board/committee terms of reference
  • Conflict of interest
  • Cultural responsiveness   
  • Treaty of Waitangi   
  • Board
  • Cost of governance
  • Board committees   
  • Chief executive performance evaluation
  • Board delegation to the chief executive
  • Protection of assets
  • Financial management     
  • Reserves      
  • Investments 
  • Treatment of staff and volunteers
  • Reporting to the board       
  • Protection of intellectual property
  • Public affairs/relations       
  • Compliance with legislation

Recruitment and employment   

  • Recruitment and appointment
  • Remuneration (wages or salary)
  • Wage and time recording procedures     
  • Time in lieu policy
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Leave recording procedures
  • Parental leave policy          
  • Equal employment opportunity policy

Staff  

  • Employee code of conduct           
  • Anti-harassment
  • Supervision
  • Volunteer management
  • Training and development (including study support)   
  • Employee personal grievance procedure
  • Annual performance appraisal procedures

Provision of services       

  • Organisational monitoring
  • Privacy and confidential information
  • Internet/email and phone use
  • Vehicle
  • Travel (including use of credit cards and reimbursement)       
  • Client complaint procedure
  • Child protection policy and abuse notification procedures     

Health and safety

  • Health and safety policy
  • Health and safety procedures, e.g. fire, earthquake, accident                       
  • Smoke-free policy
  • Workplace injury prevention policy

Financial management    

  • Financial management
  • Misappropriation of funds
  • Expenditure and receipting procedures
  • Petty cash and reimbursement procedures

Template for writing policies

Below is a useful template for actually writing the policies for your organisation.

Policy area

(e.g. governance, employment)

Policy title

(e.g. recruitment)

Policy detail

 

The actual policy statement the kaupapa, value, or position that the organisation is taking.

Procedures

How the organisation will give effect to the policy the actual steps to take.

Context

Optional - sometimes it is useful to give some background about the policy.

Effective date

 

Version/review date

 

Links

e.g. applicable legislation, professional body standards, CYF Standards for Approval, ACC guidelines etc.

 

Tip: A NZ-developed policy library is hosted by Platform Trust - Although the templates were developed specifically for use by Mental Health and Addiction providers, many templates are easily adapted to use in other types of community organisations - https://www.platform.org.nz/Policy-library

For more sample policies and templates, visit Policy Bank - The Institute of Community Directors Australia.

 

Next page: Policy and Procedures Development Process

Previous page: Introduction to policies

Contents of the Community Resource Kit