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Why Your RTO Policies Might Be a Waste of Time

February 17, 2020

Tamara Simon, RTO Business Coach
Take Another Look

Everyone knows that policies are an important part of an RTO’s operations—a way to outline your stance on compliance, productivity, sustainability, and more. It’s common knowledge that policies for RTOs are essential, but is it true?

I’m being controversial for good reason. RTO workers are told that they must have policies in place for the business to be successful. But I have a different opinion.

A policy outlines your intentions—what you’ll do (or think you’ll do) in certain circumstances, situations and environments. A common example is an RTO’s complaints and appeals policy, outlining what you’ll do when somebody complains. The problem is, if you’ve never had a complaint before, does the policy go past the hypothetical and account for what happens in the real world? When a customer is screaming down the phone at you, is the policy enough for you to resolve the situation and win them over? There’s a big difference between what’s real and what’s hypothetical.

A policy only tends to cover the possible, or the what I’ll do of a situation. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in what you’ll do. I’m only interested in how you’ll do it, when you’ll do it, and who will do it. I’m interested in your procedure for the situation.

This isn’t to say that all policies are problematic. They can be a great way to outline your reasons and intent for any given situation, aligned with your branding. But so many RTOs have policies that simply don’t work. Common problems include:

  • They’re written in bureaucratic business-speak or technical jargon that nobody understands. I don’t want to know about your “holistic strategy for complaint resolution,” I just want to know what you’ll do to fix complaints. 
  • The valuable information is hidden amidst a slurry of meaningless headings such as scope, purpose, responsibility etc. Please get to the point—what do I really need to know?
  • They conflict with the RTO’s branding, and how they actually operate.

As an example of the failure of policies, and please stay with me on this, let’s consider the show Dance Moms. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a dance school for kids in Pittsburgh, with an over-the-top coach and demanding parents who are desperate for their kids to be successful. After witnessing the yelling, criticising, and tears, I googled their dance school and stumbled on a couple of their policies:

  • Your children are a reflection of you. Good manners and proper etiquette are always expected.
  • We will treat your children with courtesy and respect.

Respect is not demonstrated by anyone on this show, and certainly not from the dance coach, who at one stage, refers to a child as “blondie” and “you there” as a form of punishment. This isn’t respect. It’s bullying.

Back to RTOs—their obligation to comply with the Standards for RTOs doesn’t state the need for policies, but despite this, they have them in bucket loads, believing them to be a requirement for avoiding non-compliance. I believe you could have a single policy stating that your RTO agrees to comply with the requirements of the National Standards for RTOs.

That’s why I help RTOs document the key information that staff and students need to know, in user-friendly handbooks, supported by the simple procedures needed to run a training business. There’s simply no point in having tons of policies if they don’t serve a purpose, or have been created to cover a regulatory “requirement” that doesn’t exist. They just take up space in your system, and worst of all, waste your time on more important activities, such as improving and growing your training organisation. RTO policies are only valuable if they help to achieve this goal.

Want to know more?

Check out RTO Policies and Procedures Are Useless Without Compliant Practices.

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