Tips and Strategies for a Whole Team Approach to Policy Implementation
Having the most professional and comprehensive policy manual is of no use if the policies it contains are not being implemented. A manual that stays on a shelf and is not referred to on a regular basis by the staff members in the service is of no value.
Every person, from the registered provider or person in charge to the least experienced member of the staff team should be aware that policies are important. Students or volunteers, parents and guardians should know this too. Everyone within your service needs to be fully informed, and to understand how important it is for policies to be implemented consistently.
Owners must follow their own stated policies. In teams, all staff team members must read and implement all relevant policies, procedures and statements. In all services, whether large or small, parents and guardians should be encouraged to read, and become familiar with, your service’s policies, procedures and statements.
Communicating policies to the staff team
In both small and large services, all staff are key players in implementing policies. If necessary, training to some or all staff members so that they can fully implement some policies may be needed. The registered provider is responsible for making sure that necessary training is available.
Regular meetings with staff members to discuss changes to policies will provide a good opportunity to talk about how and who will implement any changes proposed and any perceived challenges.
Opportunities to check the meanings of any changes and to openly discuss their implications will help to avoid misunderstandings. These discussions may also highlight any issue that management may have overlooked. This involvement in policy review and development is key to ensuring policies actually work.
»» Make policy review a standard agenda item for meetings and review a different policy at each meeting. Use this agenda item to either discuss a policy that is up for review, or to remind everyone about a policy that they need to particularly focus on.
»» Draw attention to specific policy requirements by placing a copy of the relevant policy next to a task related to that policy. For example, display a copy of your policy on health and hygiene and nappy changing procedures in the nappy changing area. This will remind staff to make sure that when they change nappies, they must follow the required procedures.
»» Draw attention to a new policy or change in policy in a larger service team by setting up a space on the staff noticeboard headed ‘New Policies’. Refer staff members to the board whenever you display new information there. Provide a plain sheet of paper for team members to add their comments or ask questions.
Supporting policy implementation with your team
Try to create an environment that implements policy and policy changes in a consistent way. Provide support for staff members who have to put the policies in place.
»» Induct new staff members to service policies. It is important to ensure that new staff members are carefully introduced to the service’s policies and procedures during the induction process. In a large service,
it will help if you provide a mentor or buddy to support the new staff member. This will help the new staff member to become familiar with service policies and help to ensure that they implement them consistently.
»» Set achievable tasks and realistic workloads.
It is important to give clear explanations about new policies or procedures and to make sure that staff members have enough time and the skills they need to implement the policies effectively.
»» Ensure policies and procedures are clearly written.
Policies and procedures are the guide to how all aspects of the work of your service will be conducted. Make sure that you have clearly written procedures that all team members fully understand.
»» Provide clear roles and responsibilities.
Be clear about who will take responsibility for what, and who staff members should report to. This is essential because lack of clarity in the scope and responsibility of the job and the expectations of others can lead to confusion. Clearly state roles and responsibilities, especially in a large team.
»» Encourage staff to raise questions about how they should implement policies.
Do this through non-threatening and inclusive interactions. Encourage staff to support each other to implement best practice standards.
»» Make sure that you provide opportunities for ongoing feedback and two-way communication between management and staff.
This is essential as it will help both management and individual staff members when they feel they need to raise any issues or concerns about how a policy is to be implemented.
»» Plan professional development opportunities for staff to learn about current best practice in specific areas of practice.
Support new ideas and encourage the staff to research their understanding of different practices. A well-trained staff team gains the expertise and knowledge to identify when poor practice occurs.
Communicating your policies to parents and families
Before a child is enrolled with your service, you must provide the child’s parents and guardians with the information they will need. This includes the facts they need to decide whether or not to choose your service and to understand how they are expected to engage in partnership with the service to meet their child’s needs. It is good practice to share this information in the form of a handbook for parents and guardians.
Make sure that the policy statements that are particularly relevant to parents and guardians are made easily accessible both to them and to all staff members.
(Developing Policies, Procedures and Statements in ECCE Services: Tusla, 2018)