Employee Awareness of Company Policies
IndustryView | 2014

When new employees start at a company, they have a lot to learn. In addition to familiarizing themselves with best practices for performing their job function, they’re often bombarded with a slew of information on company policies; from 401(k)s to non-compete agreements. This wealth of information can be overwhelming, and it’s likely that quite a bit gets lost in the fray.

However, ensuring that employees know the specifics of company policies is extremely important. For instance, awareness of benefits packages can be an important attraction and retention tool for many organizations. Meanwhile, if employees don’t remember and abide by policies around sexual harassment training, non-disclosures and non-compete agreements, legal issues can arise down the road.

To learn how knowledgeable employees are about their organizations’ policies, Software Advice conducted a survey of 1,633 adults in the U.S. Here’s what we found:

Key Findings:

  1. Only 56 percent of the working adults included in this survey confirmed they had received training on their company’s policies.
  2.  
  3. Of those who did receive training on policies, 57 percent were either very or extremely confident that they understood and remembered them.
  4.  
  5. Sexual harassment, benefits and ethics were the most common policies employees were trained on, but they were also the least well-known.

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44 Percent of Employees Don’t Know Company Policies

Perhaps one of the most surprising findings of our survey was that only 56 percent of employed adults confirmed they had received training on their company’s policies. In fact, 36 percent reported that they had received no training at all.

Employee Awareness of Company Policies

But, there was a silver lining to this statistic: of those who had received training, over half (57 percent) were either very or extremely confident that they understood and remembered the contents of their company’s policies.

Employee Confidence in Knowledge of Policies

For businesses that implement a standardized training program on company-wide policies for new hires, this is potentially good news, as the majority of employees will likely have a decent grasp of those policies. While it will of course depend on the content of your training curriculum, this can help bypass legal issues down the road concerning non-competes and non-disclosure agreements, while also ensuring that workers are aware of the benefits packages offered to them.

In-Person Training Results in Highest Confidence Levels

Of course, companies want to make sure that more than half of their employees are confident in their knowledge of organizational policies. To learn how employers can better communicate this information to their staff, we first surveyed respondents about the most common methods used to train employees. We then cross-referenced this data to find out how confident employees are in their knowledge of this training material.

First, we found that some form of in-person training—whether as a standalone method or in combination with online materials—was used to train well over half the respondents in our sample (64 percent). Meanwhile, almost a third of respondents noted they had received training solely through an online format.

Most Common Employee Training Methods

After comparing these training methods with respondents’ confidence levels, we found that in-person training correlated with slightly higher confidence levels: 27 percent of those who received solely in-person training on company policies were extremely confident they knew and remembered them.

By comparison, 26 percent of respondents who received a combination of online and in-person training said they were extremely confident in their knowledge of company policies, while just 15 percent of respondents who were trained exclusively via online material were extremely confident.

Confidence Level by Training Type

Many companies are attracted to the low cost of using online training materials—they don’t require the time of a human resources employee or department manager, and are easily administered and reused. Our data, however, suggests that introducing some element of in-person element to training can improve employees’ retention rates. This may in fact help reduce costs down the line, as employees that retain policy material won’t require as much retraining, if any.

However, this doesn’t mean that online training isn’t still a viable option. Many online training software programs allow for a combination of online and in-person training, e.g. using teleconferencing capabilities to allow trainers and employees who are working at different locations to communicate.

Additionally, most online training software also allows trainers to create and upload videos explaining important information, which adds an element of in-person training while still saving trainers’ time and standardizing the information shared with employees.

Code of Conduct and Benefits Least Well-Known Policies

Finally, we asked survey participants which types of policies they had received training on at their place of employment. Training on sexual harassment policies and the company’s code of conduct was by far the most common, with 80 percent of respondents noting they had been trained of these policies. The next most common were company ethics and information surrounding employee benefits and 401(k)s.

Most Commonly Reviewed Policies

In order to better gauge the policies on which employees might need additional instruction, we cross-referenced each type of policy with respondents’ level of confidence in their knowledge of that policy.

Confidence Level by Policy Type

Given that training on sexual harassment and companies’ code of conduct and benefits/401(k) information was most common, we were surprised to learn employees were least confident in their knowledge of these policies. Only 23 percent of respondents said they were extremely confident in their ability to understand and remember company policies on sexual harassment or benefits.

According to Amy Gulati, an HR business partner at Helios HR, and a corporate trainer with years of experiencing designing and delivering custom training solutions for clients across a range of industries, this finding isn’t surprising. “When it comes to harassment and employee conduct, the training material tends to be dry,” she explains. “Unless it's delivered in an engaging manner, the retention of information is extremely low.”

To improve awareness of these types of policies, Gulati recommends companies adopt “a blended learning approach.” For instance, in addition to having employees read through these policies, she says videos, animation or interactive activities “can be a great way to overcome a lack of awareness, as employees tend to relate and internalize the training message better.”

Meanwhile, Aoife Quinn, founder of Quinn HR Consulting, notes that details about 401(k)s and benefits are very complex, and thus employees “will remember key points but not the details.” Instead, Quinn points out, employees often “rely on being able to pick up the phone or walk into their HR office to ask a simple question, which doesn’t empower them to seek self-generated help.” Again, training employees using a blended technique (i.e., more than just handing them a pamphlet) is the best way to help employees retain more complex information.

Conclusions

Training employees on your company’s policies is an essential practice. It informs them not only of what behavior is expected of them in the workplace, but also of the benefits available to them. Equipped with this knowledge, they can make better decisions and potentially save your business legal troubles down the road, while also ensuring they don’t leave your company because they’re misinformed about the advantages of working there.

However, only slightly over half of respondents in our sample said they received any form of training on their company policies. Scarce resources may be one of the driving factors inhibiting employers from investing time and effort in training employees. Creating a curriculum can be time-consuming, and many smaller businesses may not have a designated staff member to train new hires.

In these instances, technology can often help. There are many affordable employee training software solutions on the market that allow employers to organize and create a curriculum using already available materials. Additionally, teleconferencing and video uploads can help cut down on the amount of time staff need to spend training new hires while also adding an element of in-person instruction that can be scaled across many new employees as the organization grows.

Methodology

To find the data in this report, we conducted an online survey of four questions, and gathered 1,633 responses from randomly selected adults within the U.S. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.

To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at erin@softwareadvice.com.


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