It’s time we disown boring company policies

Boring company policies are hard to understand

When was the last time you carefully read a 21 page lengthy policy document word by word? My answer is never. Reading fine text in business and legal jargon spread over a boring, multi-page document is downright boring. It’s just about time we disown boring company policies. Time to get creative.

Just about every other form of content has been adopted by the UX / UI movement. Websites look slick and modern. Apps are user friendly and continuously evolving. Training content includes videos and animation. However SOPs and company policies seem to have missed the bus.

Company Policy Comic
Image courtesy: Chris Slane Cartoons

Let’s look at some stats.

In 2021, 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, increasing slightly from 85% in 2020 (Source: Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing Survey). 87% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI.

94% of marketers agree that videos have helped increase user understanding of their product or service.

43% report that video has reduced the number of product support calls their company has received.

Increase user understanding” and “reduce number of support calls” have to be the two most important objectives of drafting a lengthy standard operating procedure or policy document. Why don’t we use videos and illustrations to simplify policies and make them fun to read and understand.

Why do employees avoid reading company policies?

Read company policy comic
Image Courtesy:

Organizations draft SOPs and policies to establish service benchmarks, consistency, expectations around employee behavior and to define working rules for the company, employees and customers. It thus becomes important that employees read and understand instructions.

So, why do employees avoid reading policies?

The length of most company policies is overwhelming. Employees avoid reading unless they really “have to”. They tend to browse through sections of the document to look for pointers rather than going through the instructions as intended by the policymakers.

A recent study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years.

Jill Ebstein, editor of the “At my Pace” series of books, reports that readers of her posts on Medium do best with articles that are four minutes or less. These are read for an average of two minutes and 46 seconds.

In contrast to what Jill reported, an average Netflix viewer watched 3.2 hours of streaming video per day in 2020.

We read less, watch more. If the content is engaging and relevant, it holds its audience. Let’s make policies engaging and interactive.

How to make employees read policies?

I have never cared enough to go through small print on insurance policies. Reasons – lengthy, tedious to read. Hence, it was a pleasant surprise when I signed up for a health insurance policy from Digit. Along with the 47 pages policy document, the kit included a 7 page policy summary and 2 page benefit illustration documents.

Both the policy summary and benefit illustration had color schemes, illustrations and tabulated information that were easy to read and digest. I read them and knew what I had to. Indeed a welcome change.

Solution: Create Policy Kits

Critical to business policies need to be communicated in multiple formats, both long form content and bite-sized morsels.

  • A parent policy document – continue with the traditional long form content to cover all information. However, let’s make it more “readable”. Move away from monochrome documents. Follow a color scheme. Use more tabulated content and illustrations. Add a search function to digital copies of the document. Avoid too many jargons and use plain language.
  • Use series of videos and animation – short videos uploaded on internal company portals that can be browsed on smartphones. Videos should not be “preachy” and if you use anchors, don’t use robots.
  • Create bite-sized content – flash cards, infographics, GIFs. These can be shared on internal company networks and employee groups to create and check awareness.

Finally, set aside a budget to make the content engaging, creative and fun. The benefits are many. Aware employees deliver better and consistent results. SOPs and policy documents are the internal equivalent of marketing collateral used for external customers. Call upon the copywriters and UI designers to deliver content to your most important customers – your employees.

By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog. I am an independent business strategy consultant, helping companies take data driven business decisions. My mission is to find and implement simple solutions for complex business problems.

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