How to Make Your Policy Stick

How To Make Policy That Sticks

So your organization’s adopted a new policy. Maybe it’s new government regulation, maybe you’ve adopted new software that will make managing your company more smoothly, or maybe you just want people to track their work more precisely. But no matter how detailed your plans are, they’re only as good as the number of employees who stick to them. Here’s some tips on how to make policy that your organization is more likely to adhere to.

Simple Policy

One might assume failure to adopt a policy is primarily an employee buy-in issue: If people don’t care or understand the point of a new task they have to do, they won’t do it. While this certainly occurs, other people will want to follow the new policy and make mistakes in doing so, or simply give up after it proves to be too much of a burden. Though every step in a new task may be trivial, they can add up to be inconvenient enough that they aren’t sustainable.

When implementing new policy, try to make the user-end responsibilities as simple to execute as possible. If you have broad plans, implementing them step-by-step over the course of weeks or months could be valuable.

Find the Average-Case Scenario

Comprehensive or ambitious office policy has a very high “ceiling”. If properly executed, they could lead to significant improvements in savings, security, or the office environment. But for non-mandatory policies, you also have to look at the “floor” – the cost if the policy fails. Sometimes new systems can lay unused, costing the office significant money and implementation time that ends up wasted. That said, it’s not good to be too cautious either.

While you can never know for sure what will happen, one way to determine the “average-case scenario” is by researching how past changes have worked. For example, if a year or two ago your organization required employees to start keeping track of their work in a certain way, look to see how often – and how accurately – the tracking documents were filled out over time. If you see drop off after a certain period of time, think about narrowing your scope or coming up with some way to streamline the process.

Monitor Your Policy

Don’t assume that you can step away from a policy once you’ve enacted it. In order to see the best effects of the changes, you have to keep monitoring them to make sure they’re continued long term. Make plans to check in on retention of the process among your employees periodically – more often for more important policies – and if it looks like adoption hasn’t been as good as expected, consider investing in education (if it looks like the issue is due to employees not understanding the policy) or adjusting the scope of the policy.


Implementing a complex policy can be appealing, but the most effective method of effecting change is to think about how that policy will be followed in a real-life situation. Whether it’s using software to make new policy easier – or even automate it – or periodically reviewing the effects, implementation rate, and pain points, any policy can be improved with extra care and thought.

I'm a Bay Area native who enjoys writing about the endlessly fascinating field of information governance. In my spare time, I enjoy making board games, baking, and attempting to convince everyone I know to watch The Genius.