What Mistakes Do People Make With Policies and Procedures?

johnwood, 4/22/2021

In this article we're going to run through some of the common mistakes people make when writing and implementing policies and procedures in their organization. 

Management don't even know that policies exist.

How often do you hear staff say they have policies and procedures, but have no idea how to locate them let alone whether they actually understand them. Quite often would a company pass on the employee welcome guide when they start, and somehow just hope that they will remember all of the policies and procedures in the future - but that rarely happens.

If new staff forget your organization's policies and procedures, they can be corrected by their supervisors. But if management aren't even aware of the policies and procedures, that's when things can really go wrong.

The best solution, of course, is to have a company wiki like Staff.Wiki so that your policies and procedures are always available, at every staff member's fingertips. That way nobody has any excuse at all to plead ignorant of a particular policy.

Policies are out of date, or worse still: irrelevant

It's a very hard to get people in your organization to take the time out to do something as boring and seemingly mundane as reviewing policies and procedures, but it's absolutely critical that this is performed on a frequent, and an ongoing basis.

Industries are constantly changing. Companies are growing. Laws and regulations are changing. Society is changing. All of these things demand that an organization's policies and procedures be updated to be accurate.

So this is our next mistake to make: ignoring your policies and procedures after they are written.

The best way to fix this is to actually set up a reminder schedule, specifically to review policies - perhaps every quarter or every year at most. That way you'll be sure to never forget.

You fail to train your staff on policies and procedures

Handing your policies and procedures to your staff is one thing, but knowing they've actually read and fully understand them is another thing entirely.

There are several aspects to combatting this.

The first is to have your staff sign something saying they have read and understood the policies. In fact this can actually be pretty critical when you are dealing with potential litigation, because it will be your best defense to deflect blame and liability.

Of course a better way to do this is to actually automate the signing-off on policies by requesting your staff e-ink sign the policy and managing this through workflow and reporting so it is digitally recorded.

The second aspect of this is re-enforcing that policy education through training and, in particular, quizzes that test your staff to prove that they know what they read.

While you can go all the way and implement a Learning Management System for this, there are simpler ways also - for example Staff.Wiki has quizzes built in, and there are simple dedicated quiz systems you can use also that are available in the cloud.

Training is an on-going endeavor, and you should be prepared to continuously educate and test your staff to ensure there is never a gap in their understanding.

Not actually enforcing policies

Setting up policies and procedures is one thing, but employers must also take the next step to ensure that all staff, including managers, abide by these policies at all times.

Non-compliance of policies and procedures within the workplace is one of the biggest threats to any organization. Policies exist to help with business operational continuity, so any non-compliance is a risk to that continuity. Non-compliance with policies that are rooted in regulations and law is a whole other matter and can introduce huge liabilities for a company, and that is something we all want to avoid.

There is also the matter of quality. Many policies exist to maintain a high level of quality in an organization. Non-compliance with those policies will most certainly compromise quality in your organization, and that can mean potentially losing customers.

There is no policy

While there may not always be a legal requirement to have certain policies or procedures, failure to actually document those policies or procedures and train your staff can still have very serious consequences. 

Policies set standards for behavior and expectations. Consider, for example, the use of social media and other online activities within your organization. Lacking a clear and concise policy for this use, detailing what kind of online behavior is permitted and what is and is not appropriate, it may become difficult to take any kind of disciplinary action against a staff member for their behavior, should it ever become a problem.

Policies can be a great way of covering yourself for those instances where staff mess up and respond with "well, you never said I should do it otherwise". Make sure all expectations are clearly laid out, and staff will have no excuse to make mistakes. Ultimately this will make your organization stronger, and your staff happier.

So these are a few examples of mistakes you can make when writing and implementing policies and procedures in your organization. Did I miss any? Of course, you have to start somewhere - and hopefully this helped you understand some the pitfalls you can avoid when setting up your own policies and procedures.  

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