The purpose of policies and procedures

The main purposes of policies and procedures are to protect your business and make it work better.

When they do this well, they are taken for granted.

When people have a problem with them, they tend to complain and refer to them as bureaucracy or ‘red tape’.

But make no mistake - if you are running a business, you had better make sure that you have your policies and procedures sorted out and make them work as efficiently as possible.

This means that you must understand what the terms mean, how you should define them and, most importantly, how you should implement them.

Policies

A policy is a statement which sets out how you intend to conduct various parts of your business and predetermines how you should resolve matters which conflict with you achieving the overall aims and objectives of the business.

Procedures

A procedure is a management process which sets out the steps and activities that must be completed to ensure that you put your policy into practice.

Keeping it simple

Keep your procedures as simple as possible – there is enough complexity in running a business, without you introducing more through “clunky” procedures. 

You want every written word to encapsulate all the good practice in your business and by keeping it simple you will make sure that everybody is as efficient as possible. 

If you think that your business is not run as clearly and efficiently as possible NOW, then it’s time you made some changes.

Efficiency increases productivity, which in turn ensures that you increase your profit margins.

Writing policies and procedures

When setting out your policies and procedures, it is essential that you follow these rules:

  1. Write them in simple, short sentences.
  2. Make sure they are free of jargon or acronyms.
  3. Check them with one or two selected members of staff before publishing them.
  4. Get somebody you trust from an external company (or employ a professional adviser) to comment on them before you publish them.

Making policies and procedures available to everybody

Once you have taken the time and trouble to prepare your policies and procedures, it is important that you ensure that they are available to everybody in your business.

In the ideal world, you will put them online so that every member of your business can have access to them at any time and where ever they are located.

However, it is advisable to ensure that there are printed copies in every working location and you should also make a printed copy available to anybody on request.

Review your policies and procedures from time to time

Preparing policies and procedures is not a one-off activity. 

Legislation, working procedures, your competitors and technology change constantly, so what works today is most unlikely to work tomorrow.

As soon as you see anything that needs changing, make the appropriate changes to your policies and procedures and ensure that you communicate these changes quickly and clearly to every person in your business.

Lead from the top when it comes to supporting policies and procedures

There is often a tendency in businesses or public sector organisations for policies and procedures to be attacked for “making things too slow or difficult”.

If you are a Manager or Leader of the business, you should take two simple steps when such comments are brought to your attention:

  1. Investigate whether any negative comments have any truth in them.
  2. If so, get the policies and procedures changed.
  3. If you make such changes, thank the people that raised the comments so that you create a positive atmosphere in which people feel confident to make suggestions.
  4. If the negative comment has no foundation, make sure you give your support to those who are trying to implement your existing policies and procedures.  Make sure that you give feedback to the people that raised the comments so that they know why you have not acted on their suggestions.  Again, thanks are due, because they have shown an interest in how things are done.

Remember – policies and procedures are the lifeblood of your business.  They are what makes it unique.