As expert business policy and procedure writers, we come across and use many informational resources helpful to the policy and procedure writing and planning process. Below are some solid tips on writing and planning policies and procedures we recommend to those who seek to develop good policies and procedures. We hope you find them useful, and that you'll contact us if you need assistance in developing your policies.
Guidelines for Writing Policies and Procedures.
What is a policy?
Policies are predetermined, prescribed actions or rules established to guide employees toward the company’s stated objectives and strategies. Policies state who, what, and why. Policies are derived from and serve the Company’s missions and its objectives. A policy lays out what management wants employees to do and explains why it’s important. Good policies enhance the company’s ability to attain organizational objectives. Bad policies hinder that ability.
What is a procedure?
Procedures extend the scope of what policies start. Procedures state how policies and objectives are attained. Procedures describe in detail exactly how (step by step) to carry out or implement a policy.
Generally, for each policy, define –
• What is the policy objective?
• What does the policy apply to?
• Who is bound by the policy?
• What happens if the policy is violated?
• What are the benefits of adhering to the policy?
• What are the consequences of a policy lapse or violation?
When an employee reads a policy manual, you want them to come away with the following:
1. “I understand exactly what is expected of me and why.”
Examples of broad policy considerations are:
2. “I understand now why we do things and why it’s important to adhere to the prescribed processes.”
3. “I understand now how a breach of policy adversely affects the company or its clients.”
4. “I understand the consequences of failing to follow policy.”
5. “I understand now how policies enable the company to function efficiently and how policies enable all employees to be on the same page, increase productivity and minimize conflict and confusion.”
• “ABC Co’s policy is to ensure the protection of each client’s private information.”
• “ABC maintains information systems that ensure control, minimize data loss, and maximize efficiency in information management.”
• “ABC strives for pinpoint accuracy in all its recordkeeping and reporting activities.”
• “Our policies ensure that we live up to our company name "ABC".
• “By adhering to established policies, we build our clients’ confidence in ABC and enhance our reputation for reliability.”
An important segment of any policy document should explain:
• Why the company has established this set of policies.
• How policies are proposed, created, adopted, implemented? What’s the process? Who is involved?
• How often are policies reviewed? Who reviews them? What does the review process generate (a report, recommendations, draft revisions)?
• How are policies changed or amended?
• Who has the authority to make policy? Is policy created through a process or is it dictated by individuals? Who are the individuals with this responsibility.
• Who has a duty or a right to make policy suggestions? What is the process through which policy suggestions are considered?
• Who administers policy once it exists? Who do employees go to for answers to questions about policy? Or for interpretations of policy? If a dispute arises about a policy, how is it resolved? Who has the authority to make a decision?
• Where are policy documents kept and maintained (how do employees know they are dealing with the right version)? Who has the authority to access these documents?
“ABC has a variety of fees it charges to various parties for various services in various circumstances. To keep fees clear, ABC maintains an accurate and comprehensive fee schedule. That fee schedule is maintained by ______ , and is updated ________ (monthly, quarterly, etc.) The list identifies each fee, who it is charged to, what it is charged for, when it is charged, how it is paid, how its charge or waiver is recorded, the circumstances under which it can be waived, and who has the authority to waive it. The list also identifies who has the authority to resolve a fee dispute. A current version of this fee list is always maintained in this location: _______ . Employees are expected to consult and conform to this fee list.”
Policies are both a means of controlling employee behavior, and a means of empowering employees. Policies can be restrictive in nature (and many need to be to promote good internal control), and they can provide staff with freedoms through defining boundaries. When employees know what the policies and rules are they are liberated to work without doubt or fear. Good policies enable staff to execute their duties, and free them to act within the limits set by policy, without constant managerial oversight or second guessing. In that way, policies empower staff to do the right thing without suffocating supervision.
Policy creation is like research. Research is an ongoing aspect of keeping polices up-to-date and maintaining a comprehensive policy manual. The policy manual should be dynamic and able to change with changing circumstances. Existing policies need to be expanded, supplemented, and revised as business conditions change, as business process reengineering takes place, as an organization expands, and as quality improvement initiatives are implemented.
Staying on top of your policies and procedures is vital. Don’t hesitate.