Emerging from the trials and tribulations from the pandemic, many business owners learned valuable lessons to keep their companies running smoothly. Those ranged from updating health and safety protocols to staying agile in business operations.
However, one of the most crucial lessons to continue throughout the future is the importance of keeping policies and procedures up to date. While policies provide a connection between an organization’s mission and its day-to-day operations, procedures outline the steps employees must take to complete a task. Together, policies and procedures help a company operate as efficiently as possible.
Importance of policies and procedures
Developing formal, written policies and procedures provide a framework for employees and ensures accountability within an organization. Outside of keeping a business organized and efficient, these help protect an organization in case of a legal issue.
Written guidelines communicate the values of an organization and what is expected of all employees. Well-documented procedures enable for a smoother transition in the event of turnover — a growing trend due to the pandemic. They can also act as a powerful training tool — providing a how-to guide for new employees and reducing the time and effort needed to onboard new employees.
How to create policies and procedures
Policies and procedures cannot be spoken or shared via word of mouth, as they need to be living documents that are constantly reviewed and updated on a regular basis. These should be updated annually, at a minimum, or when there are organizational changes, updates in laws or regulations, and instances where there have been violations or incidents.
It’s important to note that adhering to and enforcing these documents is crucial. In fact, it’s worse to have a policy and not follow it than not to have a policy at all. When you don’t enforce these items, you put your organization at risk.
The remote-work environment that stemmed from the pandemic is a prime example of the importance of having updated policies in place. During these times, many organizations had to pivot and change normal behaviors and processes. New guidelines and plans created because of the pandemic may be temporary as many organizations intend to revert to the previous items that were in place prior to the pandemic.
The time and investment that goes into updating policies and procedures is tremendous. Therefore, it is wise for organizations to consider creating separate emergency protocols, rather than spending valuable time amending current documents.
As businesses look for ways to rebound post-pandemic, or simply are seeking to better structure for their organization, here are the top-five considerations for organizations to keep in mind when developing or updating their policies and procedures.
1. Synchronize within the business
To create strong, successful policies and procedures, it’s best to ensure the policies are in sync with your organization’s objectives to help you achieve your mission.
2. Be clear and concise
Ensure policies and procedures are clear and concise. They need to be easily digestible and understood by all employees.
3. Standardize format
Employees within the organization are going to be regularly referring to the policies and procedures so ensuring they are written in a standardized format is beneficial. This allows employees to easily find what they are seeking.
4. Engage employees
Tap into the knowledge and expertise of employees within the organization. Their contributions to developing policies and procedures can offer a new perspective as they are most familiar with specific areas and subjects. Take human-resources leaders, for example: HR policies should be written by those in human resources with input from other employees. Overall, including employees can both empower them and increase accountability.
5. Get the right approvals
Policies should be reviewed and approved by an organization’s board of directors and other key decision makers. Procedures should be reviewed by those performing the day-to-day operations, which will allow for the identification of any missing steps or unclear steps.
Now is the right time
While the process of updating policies and procedures can seem like a monumental task, breaking it up and tackling one area at a time will make it achievable. Prioritize those that need to be updated. First, concentrate on those areas that have undergone significant changes or have laws or regulation changes. Don’t overlook new policies that your organization may need. Regularly reviewing your organization’s documented plans is essential. Now is the right time to pull them off the shelf and dust them off.
Bettina Lipphardt, CPA, CIA, is a partner and team leader in The Bonadio Group’s health care and tax-exempt division. Contact her at email@example.com