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Perfect Procedures

Corporate policies and procedures are often dismissed as empty bureaucratic demands - assuming, of course, that your employees read the related manuals in the first place. Still, such documents can be...


Corporate policies and procedures are often dismissed as empty bureaucratic demands – assuming, of course, that your employees read the related manuals in the first place. Still, such documents can be the foundation for establishing expectations ranging from acceptable workplace behaviour to the steps that need to be followed after equipment has been damaged.

Consider the following steps when drafting the “P&P” manuals for your fleet:

Defend the need – A new set of procedures can appear to be nothing more than extra work. Take the time to write a single sentence that explains why the related policy is important to your business and its employees. Print this information right at the top of related documents, and be sure to define the circumstances under which the procedures apply.

Consult all related legislation – Corporate procedures are often drafted to meet specific legislation, but keep in mind that requirements can change every time you cross a provincial or national border. Provincial compensation boards, for example, have established different deadlines for filing injury-related reports.

Start with a flow chart – Whether you’re outlining the procedure for a circle check, or trying to describe paperwork that should be filed when a new employee is hired, start with a simple flow chart that identifies each and every step in the process. This visual aid will often highlight steps that have been missed. (Has your newly hired employee been added to the payroll system?)

Involve your employees – Procedure manuals should never be handed down from above without consulting employees. Use the insight of your staff to identify potential wrinkles and streamline approaches. They’ll also recognize the difference between your official flowchart and the way work has traditionally been conducted in the “real-world” environment.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite – Policy and procedure manuals can be dry at the best of times. Don’t clutter a simple message with your “eloquent prose” that should be left to an English lecture, but be sure to use active verbs, avoid unnecessary repetition, and keep sentences as short as possible. Keep in mind that the most effective procedures are often the shortest.

Include sample forms – If a new procedure involves paperwork (and it probably does), be sure to include related copies that have been completed with sample information.

Keep your headings clear – Employees should be able to turn to a system of tabs and clearly defined headings to find information that pertains to a specific procedure. They shouldn’t have to read an entire manual to find out when a report needs to be filed.

Date the documents – Date all of your procedure-related documents in the same spot, to ensure that the latest version is always being referenced. A master list of any updates will ensure that manuals themselves are kept up to date.

Set up a master file – When in doubt, employees should know exactly where to turn for the latest information. Compile master versions of all related documents in one location, whether it comes in the form of a binder or a computer file.

Orient new employees – Even the most experienced new hires will need to understand how work is conducted within your organization. Take the time to introduce them to each of the procedures that relate to their job.

Prove the payoff – While it’s important to identify the need for a new policy or procedure, employees will be encouraged to stick with the new steps if they understand the ongoing benefit. Have you been able to quantify that a process is working faster than ever, a drop in workplace accidents, or a reduction in damaged freight? Tell the story. If you can’t quantify any improvements, you may want to revisit the related procedure to find out what went wrong.

Schedule reviews – Always include a mechanism for reviewing policies and procedures – such as an internal committee and timeframe in which procedures should be reviewed – to ensure that unexpected challenges are addressed, or approaches are improved.

MT


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