A policy and procedures manual is a written document that details the rules of an organization and the specific ways it should be run. This covers everything from the organization's general outlook to the details of how to process incoming mail. A few basic ideas for a policy and procedures manual will make a manual more useful to employees.
Gather feedback from departments
Before writing a formal manual for an organization, you should receive feedback from all the different departments about their policy and procedure. Even if there isn’t a formal policy and procedures manual, the departments probably have their own informal policy, memos and scattered guidebooks. A policy and procedures manual, unless it’s being written for a new business or organization, should take into consideration how the department is already run. Introducing completely new policy and procedures could potentially slow down productions because of the learning curve. Instead, think of the policy and procedure manual as a place to consolidate all of the informal policies and procedures into one place to avoid confusion.
However, this isn’t an absolute rule. One of the benefits of writing a policy and procedure manual is that it gives you a chance to review the effectiveness of an organization’s work. When writing the manual, talk with managers and employees in the different departments to see if any of the policy and procedures they currently work with are cumbersome, difficult or inconsistent. If so, you may wish to hold a meeting to discuss more efficient ways of working before completing the manual.
Differentiate between policy and procedure
Policies include general rules that describe what can or cannot be done, and this ranges from philosophical to the specific. For example, a policy can be “we are environmentally friendly,” or “submit all admission requests to the Department of Admissions.” Procedures describe the step-by-step processes to carry out a policy. When creating a policy and procedures manual, differentiate between the two by making the policies headings and the procedures of each policy subheadings or lists. This will allow the manual to be quickly navigated by employees who wish to find specific information on how a policy should be carried out.
Be clear and specific
When writing a policy and procedures manual, you may have to frequently review your work to cut out any jargon, complex sentences and vague instructions. Try to keep sentences to 15 words or less. Avoid run-ons or sentences that could be interpreted in more than one way. Instead of giving instructions such as, “process all invoices and send a form to the manager,” describe the procedures for processing the invoices and provide the name of the specific form to send to the manager.
You may wish to have one or more employees review the policy and procedures manual to check for any parts they have difficulty comprehending.
Review and update regularly
A policy and procedures manual is a living document. To keep it useful, review and update it regularly if necessary. Hold a meeting once every year to see if any changes need to be made to the policy and procedures manual. This includes new ways of doing work, rewording difficult or confusing paragraphs and brainstorming ways to make the manual more useful, such as by adding more information or color coding different chapters.
Avoid putting time sensitive information such as names of contacts, individuals’ phone numbers and website URLS into the policy. Instead of referring to specific people or titles in the manual, refer to department names. This will help to ensure the policy and procedure manual stays relevant longer.