The pandemic has taught us a lot over the last year. One lesson is the importance of keeping policies and procedures up to date. First, what are policies and procedures? Policies are the guidelines that provide a framework for an organization to operate. Policies provide a connection between an organization’s mission and its day-to-day operations. They also help protect an organization in case of a legal issue. Procedures, on the other hand, set out the steps employees need to take to complete a task. Well-defined procedures provide step-by-step instructions for how the policy should be carried out. Procedures detail who performs the task, when the task is to be performed, what steps are to be performed, and how the tasks are to be performed. Together, policies and procedures help an organization operate smoothly.
Why should my organization develop policies and procedures? Developing formal, written policies and procedures provide a framework for employees and ensures accountability within an organization. They help an organization operate smoothly and efficiently. Written policies and procedures communicate the values of the organization and what is expected of employees. In addition, well documented procedures enable for a smoother transition in the event of turnover, which has been another side effect of the pandemic. Policies and procedures provide a how-to-guide for new employees and reduces the time and effort needed to bring the new employees up to speed. Policies and procedures are a powerful training tool.
Policies and procedures need to be living, breathing documents. Policies and procedures need to be reviewed on a regular basis. At a minimum, policies and procedures should be reviewed annually, when there are organizational changes, changes in laws or regulations, and instances where there have been violations or incidents. Once you have your policies set, create a regular schedule for review and updating. For example, every January your organization is set to review the conflict of interest policy. Ensure you are documenting the date the policies and procedures were reviewed.
It is worse to have a policy and not follow it, rather than not to have a policy at all. Enforcement of policies and procedures is essential. When you don’t enforce your policies and procedures, you put your organization at risk.
With the remote environment during the pandemic, many organizations have changed how they do things. However, most haven’t changed their documented policies and procedures. The pandemic policies and procedures currently in place may be temporary because your organization intends to revert to the previous policies and procedures that were in place prior to the pandemic. As an organization spends a tremendous amount of time and effort to write their policies and procedures, consider having a separate emergency policies and procedures document. This document would only include those policies and procedures that are changing temporarily. These emergency policies and procedures should outline when it is appropriate to use them.
The top five things to consider when developing or updating your organization’s policies and procedures:
- Ensure the policies are in sync with your organization’s objectives and help you achieve your mission.
- Ensure the policies and procedures are clear and concise. Policies and procedures need to be easily read and understood by all employees. Each employee should be able to read the policies and procedures and come to the same conclusion.
- Policies and procedures should be written in a standardized format. Employees within the organization are going to be regularly referring to the policies and procedures so a standardized format is beneficial. A standardized format allows employees to easily find what they are looking for.
- Engage your employees. Policies and procedures should be written by those within the organization that are most familiar with that particular area. For example, human resource policies and procedures should be written by those in human resources with input from other employees. Involving your organization’s employees in the writing of the policies and procedures empowers them and increases accountability.
- Policies should be reviewed and approved by the Board. Procedures should be reviewed by those performing the day-to-day operations. This will allow for the identification of any missing steps or unclear steps.
Updating policies and procedures can seem like a monumental task. Breaking it up and tackling one area at a time will make it achievable. Prioritize those policies and procedures that need to be updated first concentrating on those areas that have undergone significant changes or have laws or regulation changes. Don’t overlook new policies that your organization may need.
Regularly reviewing your organization’s documented policies and procedures is essential. Now is the right time to pull those policies and procedures off the shelf and dust them off.
If you have questions or need additional assistance, please feel free to reach out to us.
The information and advice we are providing for this matter relates to COVID-19 legislative relief measures. Because legislative efforts are still ongoing, we expect that there may be additional guidance and clarification from regulators that could modify some of the advice and information provided to you, after the conclusion of our engagement. We therefore make no warranties, expressed or implied, on the services provided hereunder.