Compliance Conversations: What is the purpose of a policy?

Posted by Craig Thornton

In this video, Peter Rogers from Mango discusses the purpose of having policies.

He is joined by compliance consultants from around the world on what they should contain, as well as, how to make sure they are understood and be effective.

The consultants give us insights into these subjects with some handy tips on ensuring that your policies are clear and concise.

This is #1 in a series 4 compliance conversations about policies.

The question we answer in this conversation is "What is the Purpose of a Policy?"

Check out the video here:

 

What is the Purpose of a Policy?

 
Gary, QSM, Australia

Policies are potentially one of the most powerful statements within an organisation to actually guide behaviour throughout the organisation.

It's a formal statement of an organisation's intent and direction that is usually approved and authorized by either the senior person within that business or the senior group of people within that business.

It provides guidance to everyone within the organisation on what is required in relation to that policy subject matter.

 
Mark, Business Basics, Australia

The policies are designed, in my belief, to communicate the beliefs of the business and the company and the top management to:

    • the wider world,
    • your employees,
    • your suppliers,
    • your customers,
    • the general public.

Their designed to tell you, who we are and what we're doing in regards to this space, so:

    • what do we hold true about quality and safety,
    • what we believe, and
    • what are we going to do about it from a broad perspective.

Environmental systems is much the same. This is what we believe, this is what we're going to do, you ought to know about it, so that you can hold us accountable to what we're going to do.

Andrew, IRM Systems, Australia

The primary purpose of any policy we have in our organisation is to set our direction, tone, goals, what we're aiming for in a safety, environment, quality, or any of those.

It should also obviously, give the readers - being the staff and subcontract personnel - an indication of what we're aiming for and where we're going.

Bryan, HSE Technology, United States

Well, I believe that the main purpose of a policy is to document the required actions and behaviours around a specific topic, and in order to communicate that and educate and set expectations for employees and contractors.

It's kind of the ‘rules of the road’ regarding particular business activity, and it allows effective communications as well as engagement of employees and contractors so they know what they need to be doing while performing a particular activity.

Sean, Kaizen Consulting, New Zealand

A policy is to demonstrate the commitment of the company towards their employees, whether it is health and safety, quality, environmental and this is a statement from a company to say, ‘this is what we stand for’.

It's an opportunity for other companies or regulatory bodies to actually hold that company accountable for what they said they would stand for.

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

I think there's two ways to look at a policy.

One is, to use the terminology of policy statement, and the other one to use is a policy itself.

We take it in two separate ways

    1. A policy statement is setting high-level expectations from a company. It's senior leadership and senior management, setting the expectations of the policy statement.

      It's around what they expect from the workforce:
      • the behaviours,
      • the expectations,
      • often it may refer to legal or standard requirements.
    1. The other one, which is a ‘policy’ is often used providing much more detail than what's expected.

It could be an information security policy, and it must, therefore be quite clear what's expected of people and can often refer out to other areas of more detailed information.

Peter, Mango, New Zealand

In your statement, the first one, would that be the same as a mission statement?

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

I think in some cases they can be, but in some larger organisations, their mission statement is at a much higher level, and is more forward looking i.e.

'We expect to become the best in our field in five years’ time.'

I think if your mission statement is not at that level, and it's drawing back a little but then I think absolutely the policy statement, mission statement could be together a Quality Policy statement, which refers to certain levels of commitment. That's one of the key things, it's the organisation's commitment.

It's not going to tell you how you do it, it's going to outline the key commitments, and often a policy statement can bring in things associated to objectives.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia

A policy for me is just the way a company communicates the way it wants things to be done on a particular topic.

They are tending to be of a fairly high level, so we don't want to get too much into the detail and they're certainly not there to describe how something is to be done, that's more for procedures.

They do describe what we want to see some of the outcomes, some of the ways that we want our employees to behave and what we want to see happening in the workplace

John, Many Caps, New Zealand

Policy sets the direction of the top-level vision, i.e. ‘this is what we believe’.

If you think about the quality policy, it's going to be

    • these are our quality ideals
    • this is what we're going to do as a company

It gives people the clarity of where a company is going.

Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

The purpose of the policy is a high-level guidance document that is a demonstration of commitment from leadership.

It should be short, sweet and to the point.

It's primarily there for top management to detail exactly what their commitments are with regards to compliance, whether it be health safety, quality, environmental, food safety, data security, and for them to encapsulate those commitments in a short policy document so it can be communicated to employees to demonstrate their commitment.

Jodie, Penarth, United Kingdom

I tend to think of a policy as being a top-level document setting the framework of the key things the organisation is committing to.

Richard, Smart Quality, United Kingdom

Normally, in the land of ISO, we're talking about setting a top-level set of words that create a direction that the business might be going in on a particular standard or compliance.

Generally, the purpose of a policy is to drive objectives further down the system, it sets a high-level direction.

 

Takeaway
  1. A policy is a formal statement of the organisation's intent and direction.
  2. It should guide behaviour throughout the organisation.
  3. Do not get bogged down into too much detail - they are not procedures.
  4. Policies should give people clarity on the company's compliance commitments.

Tags: Quality Management, Compliance, Compliance Conversations