In this blog series we deal with the legally compliant and efficient corporate policy communication to employees using our Corporate Policy Life Cycle. The following blog post deals with the topic of design and answers the question “How to create policy content that is understandable, consistent, and legally compliant”.

rulebook corporate policy communication

1. The art of good policy writing

It is important for any organization to have good corporate policy communication. But what is the most efficient way to write policies? We’ve put together tips, tricks and recommendations for efficient corporate policy communication so that anyone can start with it in no time at all.

What exactly are rules of conduct in a company?

First, it is important to know that company rules are structural organisational guidelines that define the requirements for employee behaviour and concretise company values. The resulting rights and obligations, which are communicated as commandments and prohibitions, provide a binding framework for the employees of an organization.

In sum, these structural organisational guidelines constitute and shape the organisation’s so-called Corporate Conduct. From the sum of all actions that meet the requirements, the Corporate Behaviour is created that can be perceived from the outside and that is part of the Corporate Identity of the company.

When employees make business decisions, these behavioural requirements must be considered before the employees implement the business decision with the support of business processes.

It is important to distinguish between business processes and behavioural requirements in the form of rights and obligations. As a rule, behavioural requirements are stable over time, even if business processes change. Behavioural requirements define an employee’s radius of action and business processes are designed to enable efficient implementation of business decisions based on the division of labour.

This means that business processes are only good if they efficiently support the achievement of organizational goals, while rules of conduct influence whether a business decision is right or wrong. Thus, the rules of conduct stand as a binding framework for action above the business processes, but do not define them.

Especially regarding process automation, binding and transparent rules of conduct are becoming increasingly more important. In the end, people release important business transactions and use their experience and intuition.

Determining the content classes of the guideline

Regulatory content is classified according to a qualitative principle “from the inside out”.

In the C2S2 Rulebook, questions and answers operate at the rule level (core), while technical notes constitute a necessary procedural level that extends the rule level. The glossary is the explanation level and scenarios are illustrative examples (experience level) which can also be used in a microlearning context.

The focus here is on the cores.

Regulatory cores are concrete instructions for action and omission and describe whether actions are permissible (rights) or whether they are obligatory or inadmissible (duties). Regulatory cores are required if they

  • adapt legal requirements to company requirements
  • increase efficiency
  • increase economic efficiency
  • ensure quality
  • ensure controllability

Regulatory cores do not negotiate the tasks and objectives of organisational units or the basic mode of cooperation (e.g. as in committees on rules of procedure). Regulatory cores are therefore not descriptions of functions or processes, completion or operating instructions, quotations from laws, definitions of terms, etc.

2. How Interactive Rule Modeling (IRM®) can be used to develop decision-oriented recommendations for action from company regulations

Now that the guidelines have been drawn up, the second step of creating an efficient corporate policy communication is to derive decision-oriented recommendations for action from the company regulations. Interactive Rule Modeling (IRM®) is used here.

IRM® is both method and technology. It models structural organizational guidelines into a form that places the actor (the subject) in concrete action contexts with objects (objects of action and participants in the organization), in order to communicate, if possible, not in a prohibition-oriented manner, but with an emphasis on permissibility.

Information content derived from structural corporate guidelines is transformed into IRM® model questions (C2S2 Use Cases). Document content is transformed into a structure that is “understood” by human and artificial intelligence alike.

All terms, objects and actions are clustered in such a way that a superordinate parameter term is found that represents the original terms in the C2S2 model questions.

The retrieval of information in documents is done on the one hand by a bot algorithm, on the other hand the content itself is prepared in such a way that a completeness of the search results in the technical sense is guaranteed and also that contents are delivered that correspond to a human way of thinking – i.e. appear empathetic. Thus, the result of the digital search is quantitatively and qualitatively optimized and leads not only to better search results, but also to a higher user acceptance of the content.

Standard guidelines vs. C2S2 Rulebook

The communication of corporate policies is often difficult to understand because they are written from the publisher’s point of view and “in legal language”. We have launched the C2S2 Rulebook to make regulation content more accessible. The aim here is to make content available in the specific decision-making context in a permission-oriented manner.

Another important aspect is that the content of guidelines is often formulated in a prohibition-oriented way. In the IRM® process, bids or permissions are derived from prohibitions as far as possible, which are then placed under appropriate conditions (see examples below). Scientific studies have shown that people in the perception react better to this and follow the regulations more proactively. As one example, in its park preservation efforts, the National Association for Interpretation in the US surveyed parkgoers on their responsiveness to signage of two types.

One type that was positive in terms of what a park guest should do and one that was negative in terms of what a park guest should not do.

Almost invariably, respondents responded better to the encouraging messages than to the discouraging ones.

Libraries have conducted similar studies when it comes to eating and quiet areas in libraries with similar results.

In either case, the number of times people complying with signage increased when the sign expressed motivating rules in positive language, i.e. stating what you can do as opposed to what you cannot do.

An example from everyday life is the sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets.

Methodically, regulation cores can be divided into 4 categories:

A permission is a right to act and expresses thus which may be done under certain conditions.

Example: Can I travel by train? Yes, if, …

Formulation in policy (permit): The use of the railway for business trips is permitted if …

Formulation in policy (prohibition): Use of the railway for business trips not permitted if …

A ban describes an obligation to cease and desist.

Example: May I give gifts in kind to public officials? No, the allocation is not permitted.

Formulation in guideline: Gifts in kind to public officials are not permitted.

A bid represents a duty to act and consequently expresses that something must or should be done.

Example: Do I have to report a breach of data protection law internally? Yes, it is necessary to report data protection violations. Please contact the responsible data protection officer.

Directive wording: Violations of data protection law must be reported internally to the relevant data protection officer.

An exemption is an injunction.

Example: Internal reports can be omitted if the supervisor, together with the employee, considers the risk to be low.

Onepager for writing corporate policies

In order to optimize the complex process of writing guidelines, we have created a compact leaflet with which the contents of guidelines can be created in an understandable, consistent and legally compliant manner. You can download it here.