Writing company policy is similar to writing a business procedure, but there are a few differences between a policy and a procedure. A business policy consists of either company rules, typically about ethics or relationships, or process outcomes defining expected results, kind of like a mission statement. So how exactly do you write a business policy?
Company rules are found in your Employee Handbook. One example would be sexual harassment. It is illegal in the United States to subject others to unwelcome sexual conduct in a work situation. If you are going to write a business policy, you would start with the law or regulation issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC provides definitions and additional information that will allow us to describe a company policy.
Every company should have a sexual harassment policy in their company manual that reads something like this:
The Company is committed to providing a workplace free from sexual harassment and as such prohibits the sexual harassment, or gender-based discrimination of any employee.
Notice this is a rule about relationships and ethics. So now that we have written a rule, what do we do with it? We are not done. Before we release this business policy we need to put some context behind it. We could use some basic descriptive information:
Once you have answered all of these questions you are ready to produce a complete business policy document (see figure). But what if you need to write a business policy as part of a business procedure (think an accounting manuals template)? Then you should focus it on the process results.
A business policy in a procedure acts as a mini-mission statement containing the customer of the policy, its purpose, and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to communicate how users know the procedure is working.
An example of a policy for an Accounts Receivable Procedure:
Accounts Receivable Personnel are responsible for the timely preparation, distribution, and collection of invoices to optimize cash flow and customer payments while maintaining accurate records for proper internal control.
In the Accounts Receivable policy you see the customer is the Accounts Receivable personnel. The purpose is to optimize cash flow and customer payments while maintaining accurate records for proper internal control and the KPI is optimize, timely and accurate. The procedure needs to define what optimize, timely and accurate means.
I would try to keep business policies short, to a single paragraph. A longer business policy is more complex and is harder to follow. Here we have three KPIs to follow (optimize, timely and accurate.)
You could just as easily shorten the policy to:
Accounts Receivable personnel shall ensure that all outstanding customer invoices are paid in a timely manner.
A business shorter policy is more focused on a single KPI and much easier to follow. What do we do with the questions we need to answer for Title, Policy, Purpose, Scope and Responsibilities? Answer them, but in this case we are writing a procedure policy so the answers are in the context of the procedure, not just the policy. Otherwise it is pretty much the same as writing a policy rule.
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