If it doesn’t already have a policy and procedures manual, you should ensure that your organisation has one. It is an essential way to keep a record of standard data protocols to help train new employees and for seldom used data protocols for existing staff. Below are a few suggestions on how to create and maintain a policy and procedures manual.
- Involve all stakeholders. To ensure that the manual is comprehensive and easy to use, involve as many staff as possible. Have them contribute the documentation they have already written, write new procedures when required and review the draft iterations for accuracy.
- Include a complete list of procedures. Make sure that your manual is thorough and complete. It is better to have one document containing all policies and protocols than a large number of documents for each individual process.
- Ensure instructions are easy to follow. The manual should include step-by-step instructions that anyone unfamiliar with the process should be able to follow. Someone should be able to pick up the document and easily complete any task in the event of an unexpected staff absence. Include screenshots whenever possible as a way for the user to compare what they are doing to the steps in the instructions.
- Definitions for ambiguous terms. If there are fields where table or drop down options are not clear or could be subject to interpretation, be sure to include definitions in your policy and procedures manual. For example, if one of your mailing preferences is “2 mailings per year”, some staff may interpret that as 2 appeals per year and some might interpret it as 1 appeal and 1 newsletter. A table of definitions will ensure everyone is using options to record preferences in the same way.
- Include responsibilities. In addition to instructions on completing processes, your manual should include who is responsible for what and when they should be completed.
- Have a user friendly format. If you are using a word processing program like Microsoft Word, be sure to use its powerful formatting tools such as headers, table of contents and hyperlinks. These kinds of documents can become quite large, so it is important to make it easy to navigate in order to be a useful document.
- Make it accessible. Ensure that all staff members are given a copy of the document and store it in a location (as both a hard and soft copy) where everyone can access it.
- Ensure it is up-to-date. As protocols change, be sure to update them in the policy and procedures manual. Make sure one of the responsibilities included in the manual is for someone to regularly review the manual to ensure it is accurate and complete.