Statistics indicate that many employees feel that their work product is their personal property and not the property of the company that paid them a salary to create it. This mindset is often contrary to standard business practices established at the employee’s company and criminal law. So why is there such a different understanding amongst these employees and their employers? I think the first place we need to look for the answer to this question is the company’s policies
A significant amount of small to medium-size businesses have no written policies or procedures in place. Written policies and procedures provide employees and employers alike with a roadmap of how a business chooses to conduct its day-to-day operations and what is expected of their employees. Business policies also outline the acceptable, and unacceptable actions and behaviors for which employees and employers will be held responsible. Having policies that are not written down can lead to claims of misinterpretation. Sanctioning and terminating employees may be made infinitely more difficult in the absence of written policies prohibiting their behavior.
Having written policies and procedures is a really good start to protecting your company from liability and providing clear expectations to your employees regarding their actions, behaviors and consequences thereof. However, employers must train employees on the policies and procedures. If no training is provided, an employee’s ignorance of the policies is a defense to consequences. Additionally, an employer who does not enforce written policies is willfully creating a culture that is dismissive of rules, and apathetic to guidelines. When the company’s culture places little value on compliance to policies and procedure, that culture then becomes a defense to any violation of policies. “You can’t hold me responsible for violating that policy because everyone does it and doesn’t get punished.”
Written policies and procedures are important to the daily operation of the business for both the employer and the employee. Employers create a culture of compliance by emphasizing the importance of policy and procedures, and by providing training, and enforcement of them.