Running a business is exciting. You’re providing a valuable service or selling an innovative product. Your business is growing, adapting and changing all the time. Developing policies and procedures may not be as thrilling as other aspects of running your business, but it’s a critical one just the same.
Policies and procedures keep all of your employees on the same page so everyone knows what is expected.
Policies are rules and guidelines for what is expected of your employees. They typically cover a wide range of issues, including:
- Employee diversity
- Employee health and safety
- Pay schedules
- Employee time off from work
- Employee conduct
Policies tend to be high level, explaining what an employee should do in a given situation. For example, an employee safety policy may require that employees file a written report if there is an accident on the job, but it may not include specifics such as where the form can be found, how to complete it and who should receive it.
Procedures explain how things are done in the workplace. Procedures can also be applied to a wide range of workplace issues. For example, there may be procedures for how to ask for paid leave, how to deal with a customer complaint and how to file an accident report. Procedures are also sometimes referred to as “standard operating procedures,” or SOPs.
These documents can be very detailed. They may be written as a step-by-step outline or as a flowchart. For some procedures, it may be helpful to include screenshots that illustrate exactly what should be done for each step of the procedure.
Procedures are often written to cover situations that involve most employees, but they can also be written to outline the specific tasks or duties of specific employees. This ensures a smooth transition if one employee leaves and another employee takes over her duties. For example, if one IT employee handles blocking access to company technology when someone is terminated, that employee should document each step of what she does so that another employee could take over those responsibilities if needed.
One of the biggest advantages of policies and procedures is that expectations for employees are clear. Managers and employees know what is expected of them, and that helps to minimize employees being treated unfairly or not knowing how to respond if an issue arises.
Other advantages of business policy and procedure documentation include:
- Retaining institutional knowledge when an employee leaves
- Ensuring your policies comply with federal, state and local laws
- Some protection from lawsuits
- They ensure consistency across multiple sites and locations
Policies and procedures are best developed by multiple stakeholders in your organization. You may want to include managers and employees from throughout your business to ensure your policies and procedures are relevant to everyone.
As you develop policies and procedures, keep in mind that this is not a one-time process. Your documentation will need to be adjusted and changed over time. To develop policies and procedures, start by looking at what other businesses in your industry are doing. Industry organizations may be able to offer some insight about what policies and procedures your business needs.
Bring together a diverse group to develop the policies and procedures. Make sure everything is written in clear language that new employees understand. A manual written with a lot of industry jargon and acronyms won’t be helpful for someone who doesn’t already know the language.
Once policies and procedures are written, explain them and their purpose to your employees. Let them know that it’s important to follow them and that if changes need to be made, they should let you or another point of contact know so your policies and procedures stay up to date.