Policies & procedures: Setting your employees up for success

Even as a solopreneur, it is never too late to start proactively creating company policies and procedures

Most business owners will facilitate the creation of their company’s policies and procedures in response to a need, such as when an operational procedure gets too complicated and mistakes are being made; wanting to duplicate processes and efforts at a second location; when there is a question as to whom is assigned the responsibility for carrying out a certain task and so on.

One would be hard-pressed to find a business owner who believes that policies and procedures in the workplace are not important to the operational health of the business. However, it is all too common to hear of a business, especially one that is relatively new, that does not have any formal policies or procedures in place. Reading the example below, written in the owner’s point of view, think of different ways the employees would benefit from having written policies and procedures on hand.

John decides to start a business. He works hard as a solopreneur, handling each aspect of his company until he finds himself overwhelmed. The day has come for John to hire his first employee. John is excited, thoroughly explaining each task he will be appointing his new hire. With the added help, John’s business starts growing quickly and he soon recruits another individual. Both John and his employee take turns training the new recruit. By the fourth recruit, John is so busy he delegates all new employee training to his current employees.

At some point during recruitment, John considers creating policies and procedures for main business processes but the lack of time and energy to devote to such a task prohibits him from following through. With employees receiving training and work getting done, the necessity of having policies and procedures is low. John vows that he will, eventually, get around to creating some formalized policies and procedures someday.

John’s business keeps trekking along. He has experienced some turnover – his first ever hired employee, Wendy, has left, leaving large shoes to fill. John immediately appoints his second-hired employee, Dan, to take over Wendy’s tasks, since Dan has now been with the company the longest. However, there were tasks Wendy performed that she did not go through with Dan before her departure, leaving Dan to figure it out on his own. John tries to help the best he can, but even he isn’t sure how Wendy was completing them.

Meanwhile, the other employees’ main resource for questions has left and all feel a sense of unease. Somewhere, an employee half-heartedly tries to write up a procedure manual, which John doesn’t have time to review.

One day, it is brought to John’s attention by way of customer complaints that a task is being performed incorrectly. After talking to several staff members, he discovers a handful of employees are inconsistently performing said task in different ways, stating they were never shown how to do it the right way. He then takes the time to address the issue with all employees and conducts group training to ensure everyone is on the same page. John is hesitant in conducting any disciplinary actions with the employees involved as he cannot prove they were trained properly or improperly. He is now wishing this procedure, along with others, had been formally written down.

Based on the story above, policies and procedures can help employees with:

Decreasing new job jitters

Starting a new job or position can be a nerve-wracking experience. New employees will feel more comfortable quicker knowing there is a guide for the main components of their tasks they can refer to, which supports better performance during their initial training. It also reiterates the positive decision they’ve made in joining the company.

Supporting the trainers

When training efforts are supported by policies and procedures, trainers can follow protocol to ensure a new recruit is trained properly and thoroughly, making it easier to complete training and get back to their regular tasks. Trainers will, in turn, feel valued by the company and more willing to assist in training future employees.

Serving clients and customers better

When a different situation, uncommon question or unfamiliar request arises outside of the normal day-to-day occurrences, employees have a guide that will allow them to convey what the client or customer’s options are per company policy. This will, in turn, prove the company’s competency in the eyes of the customer, vendor or client.

Bolstering company morale

When policies and procedures are available to support the employees and their daily tasks, then company meetings and interactions with the owner can be more positive. Instead of focusing on operational errors or customer service snafus, meetings can be geared towards proactive measures and open, educational, and encouraging dialogue between the owner and staff.

Relaying expectations for employees

With outlined expectations for each position as well as set performance metrics, employees are held accountable for their role and work conduct. This will also hold the owner accountable for upholding standard disciplinary actions for those who aren’t meeting company expectations, which increases morale when employees feel like everyone is doing their part in the company.

Even as a solopreneur, it is never too late to start creating policies and procedures. Being proactive in this area of business will not only allow for organized growth, it will be a company that truly supports their employees in a tangible way.

Cathy Baillargeon is an associate consultant with Salsbury & Co., a business management consulting firm in Vancouver. She can be reached at cathy@salsburyandco.com.