When employee numbers start to rise, you must find a balance between following your own vision and allowing your team enough space to fulfil the potential they showed at interview when you chose to hire them. Procedures and policies can help you do that.
What are procedures and policies?
Procedures and policies connect a company’s vision and its internal operations. They can come in the form of step-by-step guides, comprehensive guidelines or even just general values that should be adhered to. Whatever they look like, procedures and policies seek the same end-result: consistency.
Policies tend to be a little more general than procedures. Policies often cover the company’s rules. They focus on behavioural guidelines and usually provide an explanation on why such rules exist and how they benefit the company, its employees, its clients or customers. Policies will also provide details of the consequences should the rules not be followed. They aim to ensure that all of those who represent the business do so in the best way possible.
Procedures are usually more specific. They tend to focus on specific tasks and are put in place to ensure the company’s work is completed to the highest standards, with that all-important consistency. In order to be effective, procedures have to be accessible and easy to follow for the whole team – this includes current employees and anyone you may hire in the future. To ensure everything is clear and understandable, examples are often provided.
Procedures can cover anything from HR activity, like holiday booking and disciplinary hearings, to specific tasks, like how to complete a particular process to the quality levels necessary to keep the client happy.
Work environments where everyone seems to run around like headless chickens, blaming each other for mishaps and mistakes, cause stress, reduce productivity and can eventually affect customers.
With procedures in place, everyone knows where they stand. Staff members should be able to clearly see the role they play in the company. Guidelines should mention names, so everyone is clear on the responsibilities of each team member – and themselves, of course.
Above all, procedures provide standardisation – with step-by-step instructions or at least detailed guidelines, employees are in the best position to consistently produce results that meet the company’s standards, which should be high if you’re planning to grow with any kind of speed. When behaviours are consistent, it is easier to analyse, troubleshoot and improve if things don’t quite go to plan.
Getting it right and keeping it that way
To ensure procedures are easy to follow and that they work effectively, you may need to get feedback from the team; especially those directly affected. It’s unlikely that you’re going to produce procedure perfection at the first attempt – create a draft and let team members use it. Record the feedback and amend, using a bit of version-control to keep things running smoothly.
Procedures need to be consistent across the whole team, so it’s important every employee has the latest copy, or at least has access to it. Put a version number and a date at the bottom, to avoid consfusion.
Procedures must be kept relevant and accurate. If you’re going to keep a paper copy, print off any a new version whenever there are changes, however minor. It might seem like a waste of time but procedures need to be as accurate as possible.
You can’t always work as closely as you’d like with your team. Procedures and guidelines will enable you to work on developing the company while giving that wonderful team of yours enough space to shine.
Procedures form part of the backbone of your company. Putting them in place may seem like a bit of hassle, and it can take time, but they will definitely save time in the long run.