How to Write a Policy Document

A policy document specifies the rules, guidelines and regulations that your organization requires employees to follow. Policies also reflect the values and ethics your business holds dear. The kinds of policies you implement represent the culture of your company.

For example, is your business the kind that expects employees to come in at a certain time each day, or do you think flexible hours help employees to be more productive? Writing a policy framework for your business makes it clear to employees how they should behave at work.

Types of Policy

Your business’s policies enable your organization to achieve strategic goals, reduce liability and risk and improve areas of weakness. There are many different aspects where you can implement a policy for your business:

  • Ethical behavior
  • Dress code
  • Use of personal technology at work
  • Interactions with customers
  • Disclosing confidential information to external parties

Regardless of what you’re outlining with your policy document, be sure to use clear and direct language so your employees have a concrete idea of what is expected of them.

Identify the Policy Details

Your policy document needs to specify a number of key details about the policy. Think of it as answering the who, what, where, when, why and how questions. For example, to whom does your policy apply? Is it for all employees or only for those in a certain department? In which location does this policy apply? When does your policy take effect? Should employees always follow this policy, or is it only applicable at certain times?

If your business is instituting a policy that states employees cannot use their personal mobile phones while at work, you may choose to say that this policy is in effect as soon as their shift starts and lasts until they clock out, or you may state that employees can use their phones while they are traveling for work but not when they are on the store floor interacting with customers, for example. Provide clear directions and guidelines.

Don’t forget to tell employees what happens if they are in violation of a policy. Will they receive a warning, and if so, how many warnings will they get before you take punitive action? Some policy violations may require immediate dismissal of the employee, while others call for a softer punishment.

Explain the Process or Outcome

Policies require some context that helps employees to understand how they fit in with the overall objectives of the business. In the case of the mobile phone policy, you can say that you want employees to be fully focused on customers and not distracted by their phones, for example.

If your policy includes restrictions, then it’s important to provide alternatives. In this case, if employees need to make an important call, they can do so with the permission of the shift manager. This shows employees that your policy is designed for the real world and takes into account exceptions when needed.

Provide a step-by-step process if applicable. In this case, the process may simply be for employees to leave their personal mobile phones in the staff room while on shift. They can access their phones again once the shift is over. For more complex policies, you may need to provide chronological steps or detailed guidelines on how to proceed.

Remain Flexible With Your Policies

No policy is set in stone. As businesses change, so do policies. They can grow to include more areas or to clarify ambiguous sections. Some policies may be eliminated, while others may be added. For example, as technology changes, your business’s policies around mobile use may change as well. There may be a time when you allow employees to use their phones while on shift, or you may go in the other direction and also restrict the use of personal music players and smart watches to limit distractions.

Take into account the changing external elements that affect your business’s policies and adjust your guidelines to better serve your customers and engage your employees.

References

About the Author

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.