Policies & Procedures- how to write them
In a previous blog – Policies and procedures – why do employers need them? – we looked at the sort of policies and procedures employers should have in place, both for legal reasons and to help your business run smoothly, safely and successfully.
Creating policies and procedures and communicating them clearly to your to staff will help you to standardise your operation and measure consistency.
Where to start
First, decide who is responsible for writing each policy and procedure. This may require the formation of different sub-groups for the various aspects of your business.
Create a standard format for the documents, using the same font style and size, page margins and header. This will look more professional and will help with consistency.
Make a list of the key points that the document will need to cover and work out the most effective order to present them.
Outline of the content
Start with a short explanation of why the policy or procedure is needed; what is its purpose?
Explain who it applies to and link it to your overall business strategy and goals.
Use subheadings and bullet points where helpful in the main body of the document and keep each point succinct.
List any definitions and include references/links to relevant documents and laws. You may need to attach another document to your policy or procedure, such as an order form or invoice, as an example.
If you’re struggling to write your policies and procedures from scratch, get inspiration from companies/organisations in similar fields – without plagarising their documents. A quick online search should give you access to resources with examples that you can look at and follow.
Writing style and presentation
The document should be written in the third person.
Use plain English, simplify the language and avoid jargon where possible. Give clear directions: don’t say employees “could” do something if they “should” be doing it. There should be no ambiguity.
Avoid dense paragraphs that will put your staff off reading the document. Pull out any particularly important information in bold or a different colour font.
Consistency is key
Ensure grammar and spelling are correct throughout. Be consistent, for example, decide whether you are using capitals or lower case for job titles and stick to this all the way through the document.
Avoid including information that will quickly go out of date. For example, it’s better to say a department was founded in 2013 than three years’ ago.
Names that can be shortened should be spelled out in full on first usage, with the acronym in brackets, eg: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). After first mention, you can use the acronym only.
Once you have finished
Get at least one other person to proof read the document, especially if it’s being printed out.
Then make sure new employees are given copies or directed to online versions.
Policies and procedures can change at any time so don’t forget to update your documents on a regular basis.