EVERY business should have a document that clearly states how things should be done. This is essential for all companies for smooth running of the business. Every company faces difficulties in its operations and a document which spells out its policy and procedures helps to deal with such. Does your business have a policy and procedure manual that covers company rules and employee guidelines? If not, it is time to develop one.
guest column:Emmanuel Zvada
What is a policy and procedure manual?
Policy and procedure manuals are codified documents that outline all the necessary policies, procedures, SOPs, best practices, and rules that the employees of the organisation have to follow. They are designed to regulate all major decisions, actions, and principles of an organisation. These documents provide authority and necessary guidance to an employee or a department on various processes and procedures of the company. Policies contain high-level principles or requirements that a certain department or functional area of the organisation must follow, as formally agreed upon by management. These policies set the directional tone for individual departments or areas of the business.
Procedures are in line with particular policies and define lower-level processes, such as daily, weekly or quarterly functions and job activities. Procedures bring a set of related functions and organisational processes together, which can then be consolidated in a well-defined category.
Processes are typically contained in procedures, defining in detail how regular business functions are performed. A process has both a starting and finishing point, and shows interrelationships and dependencies with other processes and organisational areas. It also provides insight into standard functions and key risk and control points that need to be monitored and taken into consideration for risk assessment. A policy sets the expected employee behaviour and the procedures outline the steps in relation to that.
It is also important to note that Policies are not just the written word. A critical aspect of policy is the way in which it is interpreted by various employees and the way it is implemented. For example, the organisation may have a written policy which says staff meetings occur once every week.
However, what you normally notice is that all staff members go to the staff room and have an informal catch-up about recent events and team tasks, policies should bring results. The more organised, systematic and thorough you are in the initial entry and assessment process, the less capacity for misunderstanding later on.
Why policies and procedures are important
Every company needs a policy and procedure manual to guide its operations, strategy, and workflow. Where policies set the expected employee behaviour, the procedures outline the steps for that. This ensures consistency in practice and helps in maintaining quality. An effective policy and procedure manual is an essential management tool. A must red for all employees, it states business goals and policies and communicates appropriate standards of action and behaviour for all employees. Furthermore, policy and procedure manuals help with:
Employees come to work with the intention to work hence it is management’s responsibility to spell out behaviour and practices that guide workplaces. Policies communicate what the organisation expects of the employees at work and it also sets standards of conduct, behaviour, and performance of employees. In actual fact policy and procedure manuals clearly define and set the expectations of employees and provide a source of reference for employers to be able to review and check if they are meeting those expectations.
A well-detailed policy and procedure manual is a valuable communication tool to efficiently carry out all business operations within the organisation and for reducing transgressions. It states business goals and policies and communicates appropriate standards of action and behaviour for all employees.
In actual fact your policy and procedure manual is really about good communication as it communicates your standards. By documenting your standards, you communicate what is important for your company’s quality, growth, and customer satisfaction.
Uniformity and consistency
Policies create a level of uniformity in employee rights and responsibilities. Without clear direction, employees usually have varying personal standards so having a policy will result in standardisation. A company dress code is a good example of a policy. Without a dress code, some of your employees might wear a suit to work, while others might wear jeans and T-shirts so a policy will actually state the appropriate attire. If you want your employees to convey a consistent image to your customers or clients, a dress code takes guesswork out of the situation.
When procedures are followed, there is consistency in practice for work processes. This consistency helps to ensure that things are done the same way, everytime, and that all of the procedural steps are followed. When steps are skipped it creates an inconsistent process that then creates variations in product or service quality.
Enhancing employee productivity
A well-developed policy and procedure manual serves as an authoritative source for answers to common questions related to your business or company. Properly documented manuals speed up the process of decision-making for employees and help them follow regulations concerning business guidelines, resulting in higher productivity.
Serves as a training tool
A policy and procedure manual can serve as a training tool, since it tells employees how they fit into the overall structure of the company, and it tells them where to go if they have questions or concerns. Employee training is one of the most valuable investments any organisation can make.
When employees receive thorough training and are provided with detailed job descriptions, they are more prepared to complete tasks. New workers will use the manual to help them get up and running in a timely manner so that they will easily adapt to the new environment.
Reduces unnecessary claims to the organisation
Up-to-date policies and procedures can assist an employer in legal claims. Employers often find themselves making costly procedural mistakes when disciplining or dismissing an employee for misconduct. They may have a fair reason for dismissal. However, if they have not followed procedure, this can render the whole process unfair. Having a clear, legally compliant and well-written procedure can reduce the likelihood of running into legal actions or claims.
Regardless of your organisation’s size, developing formal policies and procedures can make it run much more smoothly and efficiently. Policies and procedures are an essential part of any organisation. With a written policy and procedure manual in place, your staff will have somewhere to go when the unexpected happens or, in other words, when employees wonder, “What do I do now?” or, “How do I handle this?” Policies and procedures provide a roadmap for day-to-day operations.