Policies are rules, principles and guidelines an organization’s management adopts to reach its long-term goals, according to the businessdirectory.com website. They shape all important decisions and activities. Procedures are the steps employees conduct in day-to-day operations to ensure that what they do reflects and supports existing policies. When faithfully followed, well-written policies and procedures promote efficiency, effectiveness and consistency while upholding the organization‘s philosophy or “vision.”
Policies define and provide guidance about how to achieve a business’s goals, strategies and objectives, according to AME Info, a Middle Eastern business information website. “Policies identify the key activities and provide a general strategy for decision-makers on how to handle issues as they arise," AME adds. Policies describe acceptable and unacceptable choices and behavior and set a context and boundaries within which to develop procedures. For example, a policy of not discriminating against any job applicant on the basis of race, gender, age or country of origin helps the human resources department develop procedures to ensure that all candidates are treated equally.
Procedures explain employees' job duties and indicate the scope of their responsibilities. This guidance helps to keep employees from interfering with each other or overstepping their ground, which can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings. They are also sets of instructions employees follow to ensure that they carry out specific tasks thoroughly and consistently. Following a well-written set of procedures helps employees learn about and do many or all aspects of their jobs independently, reducing the need for managers to intervene frequently or micromanage. An example of procedures would be the steps an employee takes to arrange for repair of a broken machine. These might include: arranging for expert damage assessment, obtaining approval for purchase of necessary parts and labor, identifying an appropriate vendor and coordinating payment for products or services rendered.
Established policies and procedures ensure that the organization’s way of doing business doesn’t deviate or deteriorate over time, even if key leaders or other employees leave. They are tailored for the organization and the job, not to a specific employee. By following them, even the newest employee can learn quickly about how the organization operates and why, what’s expected of any person in that position, and what the job entails. But managers should review and update policies and procedures periodically to reflect intentional organizational changes, Gene Levine, a business management consultant, says on the Gene Levine Associates website.
Having well-established policies and procedures can help a company refute allegations of legal or regulatory violations that employees or customers may lodge against them, Levine points out. They provide proof of intent but must be accompanied by genuine efforts to adhere to federal, state and local rules, of course. Managers who insist on and verify organization-wide compliance with laws and regulations can help prevent enforcement action by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Internal Revenue Service or local health departments, for example. This may also help to stave off law suits.