Documented policies and procedures for your business help ensure that your employees have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. Written instructions, guidelines and regulations provide consistency and quality assurance in the workplace. If you have many policies and procedures for each of your business departments, implement a numbering system that makes it easy to keep track of and find individual policies.
Consider an Intuitive SOP Numbering System by Function
If you have multiple departments in your business, separating policies and procedures by department is an intuitive and user-friendly form of organization. Alphabetize all of your departments and then assign them each a number. For example, all policies from Accounting will start with 1 and all policies from Marketing will start with 6. This way, employees will know immediately what kind of policy they are looking at just by reading the first number.
You can also institute an alpha-numeric SOP (standard operating procedure) numbering system, instead of just using numerals. This can be particularly useful if you have many different departments and if your employees will need to access policies from multiple departments. Using alphabets can help them identify the department more quickly. For example, all policies from Manufacturing start with MNFG or all policies from Human Resources start with HRS.
Break Down Numbers by Policy Type
Once you have identified how you will number your policies by department, then it’s time to determine how you will number each individual policy within the departments. For example, if the Human Resources department has 10 policies, you can number them like HR 3.1, HR 3.2, HR 3.3 and so on.
However, if you have multiple policies that are interconnected, you may want to further delineate the numbering system. For example, if you have policies about booking time off for vacation, booking time off for a sick day and booking time for an unpaid day, they all fall under booking time off. Therefore, you could use the same numeral for the policy but add another sub-step, like HR 3.1.1, HR 3.1.2 and HR 3.1.3. This also makes it easy to keep related policies together, especially when you have to write additional policies.
Specify the Type of Document
For businesses that have many different kinds of policies and procedures, identifying what kind of document it is through the numbering system can simplify the process for users. For example, all procedures can be identified with SOP, all work instructions can be identified with WI and all policies can be identified with POL.
That way, the reader can identify the kind of document they are reviewing at a glance. A standard operating procedure numbering system can look like this for a policy from the marketing department: MKT POL 5.1.
Follow Policy Numbering Best Practices
When creating a numbering system for policies and procedures, be sure to keep the goal in mind, which is to make it easy to organize and find the documents. As a result, refrain from making your numbering system overly complicated. Consider how to make the numbering system intuitive, so someone can easily identify what kind of document they are looking at without having to use a reference key.
Be sure to communicate your numbering system to all employees once you implement it. Let them know where your policies and procedures can all be found and how to use the table of contents or index to locate a specific policy.
Finally, keep consistent in your use of the numbering system. Apply the numbering system whenever you create a new policy document, and be sure to follow the guidelines you have instituted for your company. This will ensure that employees are always able to locate the right documents they need to effectively do their jobs.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.