Hillingdon Association of Voluntary Services is a council for voluntary service in west London with 13 paid staff and six volunteers. Last year, the organisation decided to update its HR policies to reflect recent changes in legislation and make them more consistent.
"We had a collection of policies we had assembled over the years," says Ted Hill, the organisation's chief executive. "We felt it was time we reviewed them and brought them up to date with current legislation, as well as refreshing the language and style."
The charity had an HR adviser at the time, Gurdip Rai, whose job was funded by a grant from the infrastructure body Capacitybuilders. Rai worked through the organisation's 31 HR policies in batches of between three and five, in partnership with an HR assistant, and also created six new policies. Rai and her assistant used the website XpertHR to cross-reference the policies against a database.
When a batch of updated policies was ready, it was sent to the organisation's staff and volunteers by email, and questions and comments were invited. The documents were then presented to the charity's management committee before being posted on an intranet for staff to view for a second time.
"It was very easy to do," says Hill. "They were not big changes. The policies were already there, but it was time to refresh them. We didn't review all 37 policies at once; we identified our priorities and split them into batches, according to the amount of time since they had last been reviewed and how relevant they were. The corporate manslaughter policy, for example, was not high on the list of priorities."
When the new policies were signed off, Rai and her assistant drafted a series of line-manager briefings to help managers put the policies into practice and communicate them to staff. Each policy was condensed into a single page of A4 paper.
Hill says that although the process was simple, it was more time-consuming than expected. "You need to be aware of the time it's going to take," he says. Staff were given up to 15 days to review each batch of policies and the trustees were given three weeks.
"From the decision to the final drafts took 10 months," says Hill. "We didn't realise how many policies we had. But now they are all in place, we can amend them as we go along."
Updating the organisation's HR policies has brought benefits. When Hill was appointed chief executive of Havs four years ago, only 20 per cent of staff were happy with internal communications, according to the organisation's annual staff survey. Last year, that figure was 80 per cent.
"The way we conducted the review is part of that," says Hill. "It is important to be open with staff and make them feel involved - then they accept changes more easily.
"There is a great deal of anxiety at the moment about jobs and stability, and this process has made staff more aware that we are doing our best for them."