Policies and Procedures. Not exactly the sort of topic that gets many people excited. However, these business documents are a crucial detail for any business, of any size. Let’s take a closer look at why they are so important.
Why do we need them?
Policies and procedures are the skeleton that holds a business together. You can’t see them, they’re not pretty, but without them, everything would fall apart.
Every business has policies and procedures. Whether they’re written down, or just in your head is another matter. Knowing what you do and how you do it is great, but if you want your business to grow, and have stability for unforeseen situations, having your P&Ps documented is super important.
Nobody wants to think of the worse-case scenario, but what would happen if you were suddenly in an accident, or taken ill, and unable to be hands-on in your business for an unknown period of time? Would someone else be able to step into your shoes, keep things on track, and not make a royal mess before you get back?
Policies – the What and Why
Policies are simply an explanation of what your business does, and why it does it that way. For example, a standard Financial Management Policy would have clauses such as:
- Company XYZ is committed to honesty and integrity in all aspects of its financial management process.
- Financial decisions are made within a sound accountability framework, using robust and transparent systems.
- The organisation undertakes regular reviews of financial systems and engages in independent audits.
This makes it clear that this business is operating within a legal and ethical framework, with openness and honesty, and that all staff or contractors engaged are expected to act in the same way.
Each business will have different policies that are relevant to them, to their industry, and to their product or service offerings, however some standard policies that many businesses would have include:
- Financial Management Policy
- Conflict of Interest Policy
- Workplace Health and Safety Policy
- Human Resources and Recruitment Policy
- Customer Service Policy
Procedures – the How
Now that we know what the business expects, and why, we need to spell out the ‘how’. This can be the tricky part, and it can feel a little overwhelming to begin with.
One easy way of starting is to literally record a process being completed from start to finish. If it’s a task completed on the computer, using a tool like Loom or Zoom to record your screen can be really useful. If it’s a manual task, having someone take notes while you perform and talk through the task can be helpful. Otherwise, you can simply write down each step as you do it.
These notes or recordings then form the basis to develop your procedure, where each step is summarised clearly and simply, in a logical format that is easy for people to follow.
There are a couple of different ways procedures can be documented. Some of the main ones are:
- List – a simple step-by-step list of instructions
- Infographic – written instructions combined with screen shots or images to demonstrate different steps
- Process map – a diagrammatical flow chart that includes decision points and conditional logic
The complexity of the process, as well as the target audience, will help determine which format will be best.
The process of documenting your procedures can itself be a learning experience, and highly valuable. It’s a great way of identifying inefficiencies and potential areas for improvement. Hand-off points, opportunities for automation and system integration, delegation or outsourcing can also be easily highlighted.
Once you have policies and procedures in place, the tasks of onboarding new staff, expanding your business, and taking time off all become a whole lot easier!
Whether you decide to tackle documenting your P&Ps yourself, or decide to engage a virtual assistant to help you out, getting these fundamentals right will help your business now, and into the future.