Here are some templates and tips to guide you through the process of writing a policy and procedure manual. Such documentation is very important if you want your business to operate efficiently. It will help reduce managerial stress and possible legal conflicts, and ensure that your employees know how to perform their jobs according to expectations.
To work efficiently, first download a policy and procedures manual template so that you don't have to start from scratch. (You can find professional "Policy Manual", "Standard Operating Procedures", and "Employee Handbook" templates via the link below.)
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The value of standard operating procedures is that they ensure consistency; when employees do their jobs according to an proven process, the result is greater productivity. These tips for writing standard operating procedures will help guide you through the process.
- Communication is essential when writing such a manual. You must have the cooperation of managers and executives to guarantee that company policies are accurate and that all necessary guidelines are included.
- Involve as many employees as possible in the process of developing the standard operating procedures. While the writing process should be coordinated by one person, allowing others to contribute will help them see the process as a vested interest, and they will be more likely to comply.
- Focus on documenting procedures for tasks that are critical. Does the process involve risk? If so, documenting that task helps reduce the risk. Is the process complicated, and does the business rely on the outcome? If so, documenting the task will help the business reach its goals.
- Is the resulting guide well organized? Adding navigation tools will make it useful as a reference tool when employees get rusty on the details and need to look something up.
- Are all important steps of each procedure outlined, and then described in a detailed, orderly fashion? Check out these tips for writing effective procedures.
Policies and procedures usually follow a numbered format for easy reference. Both main sections and subsections are numbered, Subsections use a decimal format. For example...
1 Main section 1
1.1 Subsection 1
1.2 Subsection 2
2 Main section 2
2.1 Subsection 1
The headings for each section should clearly summarize the procedure or policy it describes. Such a structure is intuitive for readers searching for a particular policy. For example, if your reader is seeking information on your company's policy for using computer workstations, the section heading should probably read "Using computer workstations," or something similar.
Subsections should also have clear headings. For example, the "Using computer workstations" section may contain subsections called "Installing software" and "Downloading files."
By using headings to outline your guide before writing, you can ensure that all appropriate policies and procedures have been covered.
A clear standard operating procedures format will include a glossary defining terms that may be unfamiliar to readers.
Definitions are usually formatted so that the glossary term is bold, with the definition in roman text. The bold font allows readers to quickly scan a list of definitions for the term they are looking for.
You can put the glossary section at the end of your manual, or put a numbered definition subsection in each section of the guide, as needed. If you put it at the end, be sure to include a reference or table of contents at the beginning that indicates the presense of the glossary. If you put the definitions within the policies, be sure to include only definitions that are relevant to that policy or procedure.
You may wish to include information to help enforce your policies and procedures. For example, consider adding a description of the consequences of violating a policy. That way you can ensure readers are aware of the consequences ahead of time.
Also, many policy and procedure formats include a section at the end for the reader to sign and date, serving as proof that they have read and agreed to the information contained in the document.
Now, review the following resources for details on writing policies and procedures that will provide clear guidance to employees.
- Details on the policy and procedure writing process (PDF)
- Sample manual from the mental health field
Be sure to keep your manual up to date by reviewing it often. Your business will operate with greater efficiency and your employees will have a stronger sense of purpose.