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Writing And Aligning Policies

SHAMEELA WINSTON
We have spent most of these first few weeks of the year looking at personal growth, professional development and self-management type of issues, and they are an important part of how H.R strategy is formulated, cascaded and implemented because they are the building blocks that influence culture and climate in the organisation.

If people are professionally or emotionally immature, it will affect their ability to engage constructively, or should that be productively, with each other, and, with the environment.

If people are professionally or emotionally immature, they are unable to lead teams; they are unable to function in teams; they are unable to sustainably pursue goals and basically what that means is that, in honesty, their working environment is not ready for performance management principles and practices. Which means there would be a perpetual disconnect between the human resource function as a strategic business partner, and the business itself.

Ok, now that we have talked about all that, let’s get back to the business side of the department. I had this idea to talk about employment policies as they apply in your own environment.

Over the next few weeks I wanted to look at some of the employment policies that are universal to all employers, whether or not they are specifically mentioned in the Employment Act, so that we can unpack them and explore their practical application requirements and implications.

For instance, if we look at the standard recruitment policy disclaimer that ‘we are a non-discriminatory employer and hold all applicants equal regardless of ethnicity/nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability’, we can almost immediately see that it is not absolutely true. Physical disability? Look around. There are no ramps for wheelchair access. The workstations are upstairs, and there is no elevator, so unless you have normal mobility, you can’t work here.

There are no braille alternatives or voice enabled devices for those who can’t see. Nobody in the office knows sign language. So we are not in a position to say we welcome applicants with physical disability.

Let’s look at the gender statement. We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion, gender or sexual orientation. Well, it is not uncommon for teams to hold prayer meetings, and even invite clergy once in a while, to have a moment of fellowship before the start of business. But these prayer sessions are almost exclusively representative of one dominant religious group, a group whose values denounce certain gender and sexual affiliations.

Even if we are not looking at prayer meetings. Let’s look at the job application forms that

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some of us still ask our candidates to complete. They specify two gender options, when we as the ‘people’ department should be au fait with current social (and sometimes potentially litigious) realities. So if we have not prepared our teams to embrace ‘differences’, we will have policies that say we are one thing, when our entrenched culture firmly shows we are something else.

All this means is that, as the HR department, there is still some way to go in shaping our policies to reflect our actual identity, so that we don’t mislead our staff with false branding, or if we want to move with the times, we have a way to go in cultivating the sort of working environment that is supportive of the changes workplaces around the world have come to accept as the new normal. It is not enough to just create policy documents that we can’t live up to.

My pet peeve is the HIV/Aids policy. Why are we as the HR department still writing this into our policy manuals when the medical fraternity has demonstrated that the HIV has now become a chronic condition just like any other that we know? It has been successfully managed with relevant therapy regimes. So why is being still singled out? Are we not contributing to the persistent stigmatisation of colleagues who are on treatment?

Looking at most of our policies really, can we say that we are ready to employ in the global village? 12 weeks maternity leave? Is that enough today when family structure have changed and traditional social support systems are in decline?

So, more than looking at the dashboard of our typically presented performance measurement matrices, we need to look at how we are proactively changing the workplace for the better, and how we are positively influencing the broader environment to enable and empower those who would work for us.

Wouldn’t that be something? So in the next few weeks we’ll look at some of the policies used, with a view to just engage in discussion on how we can improve them. And how far we may need to go in order to do so. Improve them I mean. Until then, have a great week.



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