Planning your Policies & Procedures Manual

A policy and procedure manual are really important component of having a successful practice. There are so many benefits going forward if you have a well-constructed manual that guides the expectations of your team’s performance. If you haven’t developed one, have a half-finished manual, or have an old one that might be out of date, here are some tips to get you back in the game.

But wait, let’s first think about the words "policies" and "procedures" and what they actually mean. A policy is a guiding principle by which your practice is based on. Procedures are the details, within the policy, that step out how the service will be provided, or the qualities of your practice will be achieved. For example, instructions for using a practice owned vehicle, instructions for remaining safe on a home visit, or guidelines for what staff needs to do if they fall sick and are unable to come to work. Procedures can be in the form of flowcharts, checklists and written steps of the process.

To run a successful practice, you need to manage the quality of your service, and the productivity in your practice – that is how well your staff function to complete their work. When you are thinking about the policies and procedures you need, start off by asking yourself what you feel are the backbones or areas of quality in your practice. There will be some areas that are common between practices, such as code of conduct, confidentiality, and leave requirements for staff. There will also be policies that will reflect the unique nature of your individual service. These might be areas such as conducting a home visit or developing a procedure for billing external funding parties.

Okay, as with all aspects in business, my first tip is to plan. Before you launch in, it is important to plan what you are about to do. Asking yourself these questions can help focus your attention on what is needed as a priority:
• Which procedures match your organisation or practice goals and mission?
• Who is going to be responsible for getting things completed and how can you involve them in the planning stages of writing the procedures?
• Do those people involved have the skills and resources to complete their tasks well? If not, how can you structure this into your policy and procedure roll out?

My second tip is to ensure consultation underpins all phases of your policies and procedures cycle. There are many ways that you can start to share the information about your policies and procedures with your team, which will help encourage their engagement and contribute to a consultative process. Here are some strategies that you might consider:

Downward communication methods (disseminating information to staff):

• Electronic communication - Internet, intranet, email
• Direct personal contact between management and staff to communicate instructions
• Employee orientation materials and program
• Employee handbook distributed to all staff
• Noticeboards for posting schedules, written announcements, and general information
• Employee newsletters or weekly memos
• Letters written to staff
• Inserts with payslips
• Audiovisual media such as videos, slides, photos

Upward communication methods (promoting feedback from staff):
• Electronic communication (internet, intranet, and email)
• Staff surveys
• Open discussions in group meetings
• Forming of a committee to work on policies and procedures
• Training programs
• Business development days
• Weekly practice meetings

My third tip is to ensure your policies and procedures are sustainable – that you have a clear plan of how they will be managed long-term. They are of no use if people cannot find them, they are outdated, and if you are not around, people do not know they exist. 

Planning, Policies, Procedures

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