How to create a policies and procedure manual
Organisations spend a lot of time and energy trying to make employees follow particular policies and processes. This helps to drive efficiency, minimise risk, standardise operations, ensure compliance, support customer service and more. While creating and managing policies and procedures isn’t necessarily the most exciting activity, it’s undoubtedly critical.
One of the ways that organisations do this is by establishing a policies and procedures manual that provides employees with the “official” line on different aspects of work, including the way processes are carried out and any associated rules. It also provides guidelines to support decision-making. Given the importance that many teams stress on creating robust policies and procedures, it’s often surprising how informal their approach to doing so is. In this post, we’re going to explore some of the ways that can help you to create and implement an effective policy and procedures manual or handbook.
What is a policies and procedures manual?
A policies and procedures manual is usually an overarching document or collection of documents or pages that gathers together a number of related policies and procedures. It’s usually different from a single policy or procedure because it generally consists of a collection of them.
Examples of a policy and procedures manual include:
- an employee handbook which might be read or referred to when a person has joined the company as part of the onboarding experience
- a series of sales processes and procedures for sales staff
- processes to follow for call centre staff
- a bundle of different IT policies to follow.
A manual might also be referred to as a handbook or even sometimes a playbook, although the latter term tends to be more around providing different options on how to get things done.
Why is a policies and procedures manual important?
For many of the reasons already stated, policies and procedures are a key part of organisational life. They ensure an organisation runs smoothly in the day-to-day in a consistent way, ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory commitments, and supporting professional conduct. An organisation without clarity over different policies and procedures is opening the door to risk, inefficiency, and chaos.
The “manual” or “handbook” for policies and procedures is a standard, effective, familiar and trusted way for employees to access what they need to know, providing an essential reference point and one source of truth.
Seven tips for creating and implementing a policies and procedures manual
It’s worth bearing in mind that establishing a good policies and procedures manual encompasses many of the general best practice approaches to managing policies. However, it is slightly different from managing a single policy.
Here are seven tips for creating and implementing a policies and procedures manual.
1. Work out the scope
The first thing to consider is always the scope of your manual. This will usually be focused on a particular theme such as employment, health & safety or professional responsibilities. Your manual might also be geared towards a particular group or role, such as managers, sales staff or plant workers.
In working out the scope, it’s always worth getting a balance between the information you want to convey and the main questions that a person will ask when making decisions or following process in their everyday work. You don’t want to make a manual too long, overwhelming or confusing so it puts employees off from using it.
2. Manage each section as a separate policy
A manual is made up of a series of policies. It really helps to manage each section of the handbook as a separate policy. For example, different teams might be responsible for different sections of the handbook, so breaking it into sections makes governance and lifecycle management easier. Moreover, if you need to update a certain section you then don’t want to have to update the whole of the employee manual.
Perhaps most importantly, having different sections as separate policies even if presented as a single handbook, will naturally make it more digestible and easier to navigate for users.
3. Establish robust governance and lifecycle management
Governance and lifecycle management are essential pillars of managing policies. Always ensure this is applied to your handbook with clear ownership and responsibilities, and processes for reviewing and renewing each section.
You can use a dedicated solution like Xoralia to support the management of each section, for example notifying owners when they need to review the policies, they are responsible for, and providing dedicated views of the status of each policy. It cannot be stressed how important this element of policy management is otherwise sections of your handbook can go out of date.
4. Present in digestible chunks via one source of truth
A policies and procedure manual must always be presented via one source of truth. Having two versions of a policy – for example reproducing an original policy as part of a manual so there are two versions – is never a good idea. Not only does it mean that you have to maintain and update two documents or pages, but there is the risk of one section contradicting the other. It can also cause confusion for users when results are presented in search.
However, presenting a whole handbook to users can present a challenge, especially if you are managing policies within separate documents or pages. In this case you may want to present a landing page as an overview of the handbook that then breaks down into separate pages or links out to different documents, ensuring that you have that one source of truth. Within SharePoint, embedding an original document within a page via the file viewer web part can also be an option. Taking this kind of approach also means your handbook is presented in a more granular and digestible format for people to find what they need and avoids people having to plough through an enormous and unwieldy PDF.
5. Reference other policies
It can be tempting to cram too much into a handbook and sometimes you may need to refer to other policies within your company, but which might be more peripheral to your handbook. Usually, it’s better to link to other policies rather than including or repeating that policy within your handbook structure; otherwise, things can get complicated very easily and employees can get overwhelmed with too much information.
6. Make it easy to read and access
Sometimes a policies and employee handbook can be written too much from the standpoint of the person or team responsible for it, rather than for the user. This is a mistake because a policy and procedure manual is there to be read and referenced. If it’s complicated, difficult to access or written in off-putting “legalese” then it won’t get used.
Of course, sometimes it is necessary to have detailed version of policies that do need to be written from a risk, legal or compliance view to protect an organisation and its employees. However, on a practical level, nobody is actually going to read the small print, so it’s always important to have a readable and actionable version of a policy. It may also be important to make sure your policies are translated into a particular language or languages if you’re working in a global company with a multi-lingual workforce.
Your manual also needs to be easy to access and reachable from channels that employees have access to. An intranet is usually a good place for people to access a central policy manual.
7. Consider using policy management software
Policy management software can help with all the above, from supporting governance to version control to establishing one source of truth to present your handbook. A solution like Xoralia takes away a lot of pain and effort associated with policy and procedure management and ultimately helps employees to follow the right processes and make the right decisions.
Creating the perfect policy and procedure manual
Creating and implementing a strong policy and procedure manual that will help employees in their daily work is important. By following the right approaches, it can also be relatively straightforward to achieve, but it’s important to get the details right. Using policy management software like Xoralia can make this easier to achieve and do much of the heavy lifting.