Even a small organization can benefit from having a policy and procedure manual. While the creation of such a document may feel like overhead, it can also create consistency as an organization starts to grow or experiences turnover. Since we’ve now helped a few clients to create policy and procedure manuals for their organizations, we thought we’d share a few learning’s on what makes these documents so valuable.
First up let’s define what a policy and procedure manual is. As the name suggests, the manual consists of both policies and procedures. Policies can be thought of as the rules or laws which an organization must abide by, while the procedures define the specific steps on how to enforce, abide by, and implement those policies. To put it another way, the policies define the “what” and “why” for an organization’s rules, while the procedures have a narrower focus defining the “how”, “when”, and “who” for carrying out these rules. In fact some go so far as to suggest that the procedures are built on the policies.
In having clearly defined policies and procedures, an organization (which could be the company itself, or groups within), will gain consistency in how they operate. More specifically this creates a consistent set of rules and procedures for implementing those rules across an organization and across new employees, which can be replicated consistently and will clearly guide staff members. The idea of course is to help ensure success in an organization both in terms of how they operate and ultimately in customer satisfaction. In fact, in some regulated industries like health care, a set of policy and procedures may even be a requirement by the overriding authority.
An organization can have one policy and procedure manual, or it can be split up into multiple documents if there are different streams of services. For example, you might create a manual for HR which deals with candidate screening, hiring, on boarding, recognition etc. while an IT department may have a manual for IT security. And within each service stream, policy and procedure manuals can be used to define all sorts of processes including how people interact, training, accreditations, evaluations, protocols, customer issues, recruitment, screening, recognition, confidentiality etc.
Policy and procedure manuals also take in many different view points from key staff members across the organization. Much like a democracy, this can help balance the rules and procedures based on the different needs, requirements, and viewpoints of different groups within the organization.
The key here is to ensure that a policy and procedure manual is always up to date as an out-of-date manual can be worse than no manual at all. Therefore it’s important to view this as a living document, and someone or some group should be assigned to keep this manual up to date. Remember that a company and the industry it serves will change over time, so the policies and procedures should be revisited regularly to ensure they are meeting the needs of the organization and not inhibiting productivity through obsolete rules and procedures.
So hopefully this gives you a brief introduction as to why your organization should adopt quality, up-to-date policy and procedure manuals. The following are two useful links to PDFs which further explain the importance and content of policy and procedure manuals.