Help Your Business Run Smoothly With Written Policies and Procedures

Documenting proper ways for your crews to provide consistent quality service will save time and headaches in the long run

Help Your Business Run Smoothly With Written Policies and Procedures

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When pointing out a mistake made on the job, has an employee ever thrown it back in your face saying he or she didn’t know how you wanted the task done? Did the defensive employee claim they couldn’t be held responsible for something they were never told? If you had step-by-step procedures written down and could prove the employee had read them, the argument would stop right there. But without clear documentation, this is a situation you could find yourself in again and again.

Having written policies and procedures is important, especially if a company is growing and adding staff. Maybe in a two-person shop, mom and pop don’t need everything written down, but once they hire their first employees, it’s time to set some standards and write down the rules.

Definitions

Before you can document policies and procedures, you have to know the difference between the two:

  • policy is a standard or rule.
  • procedure is a plan of action.

For example, it may be your company’s policy to keep trucks exceptionally clean. How often a truck needs to be washed and the steps required to get it clean are procedures. Well-defined policies and procedures can also help a business comply with any relevant state and federal guidelines and help with risk management.

Signs your policies and procedures need clarification

Increased on-the-job accidents, mistakes, and cost overruns may indicate your employees aren’t doing things in the safest, most efficient ways. Maybe you’ve noticed an increase in questions from staff about things you assume to be normal operating procedures. Increased customer complaints can also indicate some of the people representing your company aren’t clear on how things should be done and are taking shortcuts.

If those reasons alone aren’t enough to convince you to get your policies and procedures in writing, consider this: A small business with a record free of claims is likely to pay lower liability insurance rates. You can reduce the number of claims you make by minimizing risk. This can be accomplished by creating policies and procedure checklists that reduce hazards on your premises and on job sites. In other words, write it down.

Getting started

Begin by determining some basic company policies. Write out each policy, and then list the procedural steps necessary to achieve that policy in a checklist format. Have at least one employee who is affected by the particular policy read it to make sure the goal of the policy and instructions for achieving the goal are clear. An understandable checklist means employees can simply go down the list to complete a task, reducing the amount of handholding and micromanaging required. If something goes wrong, it’s easy to pull out the checklist and see which steps were missed or executed incorrectly.

Put policies and procedures to work

Time spent developing policies and outlining procedures is wasted time if they are just stored on your PC or tucked away in a file cabinet never to be seen again. Ask employees to read the policies and procedures after they are first written down and have them acknowledge they have read them by initialing and dating a copy you will then keep in their personnel file. This eliminates the “I was never told about this policy” argument because you have proof they were shown the policy and were asked to read it. This will save time and frustration down the road.

Another way to make use of your written policies and procedures is to organize a hard copy into a binder or use digital files to create a single document new hires can read. This will either be a supplement to an employee-training manual or, in many cases, become the training manual. Remember to have each new employee sign and date a statement that says they have seen and read the policies and procedures manual.

Keep up to date

The collection of written policies and procedures should be a living thing that grows and changes. Regularly compare written procedures to actual processes and update the documentation as necessary. If someone comes up with a better way of doing something, officially change the written procedure. Strive for continual improvement rather than sticking with procedures that are carved in stone even after a better way is discovered.

If a policy is outdated, eliminate it. If a need for a new policy arises, add it. Again, be sure to have employees read and sign any new policies and policy changes that pertain to them. If you purchase new trucks or machines, policies and procedures will have to be added regarding the new equipment. And policies and procedures for retired equipment can be eliminated, which will prevent the file from becoming too cumbersome.

Long-term benefits

Having clearly written policies and procedures — read and understood by employees and kept up to date and relevant to day-to-day operations — will result in everyone in the company being on the same page when it comes to performing tasks large and small. It reduces time wasted on trial and error, and it means managers don’t have to micromanage. Don’t think of having written policies and procedures as being heavy handed, but rather as a way to show you care about employees’ success and safety on the job. In addition, well-thought-out policies and procedures provide customers with consistently good service, and that’s a win-win.



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