Policies and procedures are in place to help guide the way your business operates internally and externally. Periodically reviewing your policies and procedures ensures you are always following best practices. Evaluation helps you update your guidelines as necessary to reflect changes in your business or the economy and to address areas of need or concern in the company.
Polices are your company’s written protocols for how you handle various business functions. For example, you may have internal policies for things like workplace attire, attendance or how vacation days are requested. You may also have external policies for issues such as purchasing or handling customer complaints. According to KCG Consulting Group, policies set the stage for how procedures are developed, carried out and evaluated, and should be in line with an organization’s strategic objectives. Policies are usually designated by an owner, upper management, an advisory council or a board of directors.
Regularly review policies to ensure they are complete, comprehensive and easy-to-understand. Use customer and staff feedback in the process. According to KCG, a policy should be in writing, with an individual set of directives for each policy. This makes it easier to comprehend and to review and change when necessary. For example, if customers regularly complain that you don’t have a set return or refund policy, or if staffers claim there’s no fair process for how people use personal days, it’s worth adding the issues to your policy review agenda. When a policy no longer makes practical sense or is no longer applicable, you might update or eliminate it.
Procedures are the steps or processes your business uses in everyday business activities. For example, you may have a procedure for how you check in visitors, open or close the business for the day or clean or operate machinery. Having procedural guidelines in place helps ensure your business operates safely and efficiently, particularly in areas where missteps could be dangerous or costly. For example, if you don’t have a procedure for locking your business doors at night, you could open the company to potential theft or vandalism. According to KCG, procedures should include information related to who does what, when they do it, in what order and for what reason.
Activities that have multiple steps, or steps that must be applied in a particular order, should have procedural guidelines. If some element of your business experiences frequent missteps, the procedure for that area should be evaluated. For example, if customers regularly complain of late shipments, evaluate your procedures for taking orders, fulfilling packaging and tracking shipping. This will help you identify areas where clarification or greater definition is necessary. Review procedures by asking staffers unfamiliar with a process to read your existing guidelines and identify areas that don’t make sense or are difficult to comprehend.