Policy is at the core of Canada’s social safety net, our tax system, the provision of public healthcare, maternity/paternity leave, traffic speed limits and the list goes on. Every level of government, business, non-profit or charity must deal with policy.
For many organizations, policy development takes a low priority and yet well-developed policy will serve any organization efficiently and effectively.
There are a variety of types of policy. There are the policies that are used internally by a business or organization. Salary structure, benefits, harassment and vacation leave are only a few of the policies that are required. Having strong policies in place – before they are needed – will ensure that when a question arises within an organization, there is a process in place to appropriately deal with it.
There are also many external policy debates that are required. Advocacy and political organizations in particular deal with these on a regular basis. For example, businesses may advocate for changes to policies regarding taxes, import/export regulations, minimum wage and the like. Further, there are a wide variety of think-tanks that focus on specific policy areas ranging from health-care, social policy, economics, defence and the list is almost endless.
While this is not an exclusive list, we need good policy for several reasons including:
- To maintain consistency amongst all users;
- To entice or move towards an intended behaviour;
- To protect individuals from “bad behaviour”;
- Provide the foundation for the procedures or regulations that we often need/use for the enacting or enforcing of the policy or laws.
There is no single formula to developing strong policy. There are different approaches to drafting HR versus law enforcement policy, political versus environmental policy and so on. Below is a simplified version of the process that we have implemented with success.
What are we trying to achieve and what are the parameters? Using this as an internal guideline helps to frame the issue.
It’s important that we commit to listening, clarifying and confirming what we are trying to achieve. Dialogue with the stakeholder groups and individuals will ensure that the problem and potential policy solutions are understood.
Perfection will rarely be found on the first attempt. The work must be reconfirmed, tested and eventually finalized.
How do we explain the proposed policy to our stakeholders, whether they are members of the public, a union group, employees or charity.
In the actual drafting of policy, there are several considerations to take into account. Not all of these factors will come into play for all policies, depending upon the nature of the policy intent:
- Physical Environment – are there physical limitations that the policy must incorporate such as geographic boundaries or a specific pollutant;
- Social Environment – will this policy only apply to certain sectors such as seniors or young children, or those afflicted with a particular disease;
- Financial – does the policy have implications on personal or corporate tax rates or is it a political decision to reward or subsidize one of these groups due to business or other factors;
- Political Capital – will it cost the implementer hard earned political capital to implement, change or eliminate old policy with the new policy;
- Risk – what is the risk of implementing or not implementing with regard to cost, employees/voters, environment, physical and mental health;
- Public/citizen/staff attitudes – will this policy be difficult to implement? Will it have significant push back and is it still worthwhile;
- Other – are there other unique factors that should be taken into account such?