Crafting a policy document may not at first appear to be a particularly thrilling task, but it's one of the most important tasks an organization can perform.
Whether you are writing for a large or small business, developing policy documents is essential to ensure the efficient running of your organization. It is often overlooked, yet it puts in place clear guidance as to how the organization should operate and be managed.
Our goal with this article is to provide you with a starting point on how to write compelling policies.
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from understanding how to write policies and keep updating them later on.
1. Introduction to policies
Before you can start writing policies, you should first have a basic understanding of what they are.
For that reason, we will start by defining policies!
What is a policy?
A policy is a set of guidelines, or rules, put in place by an organization or individual to ensure efficient operations.
They provide a framework for decision-making by outlining the protocols that must be followed in certain situations, and they help ensure consistency and compliance in the workplace.
Policies are usually documented in written form, so they're easy to understand for every team member.
When creating documents in written form, there are certain components that should be part of every policy.
Policies should be:
- Clear and easy to understand. Policies should be written in terms that are easy to understand and easily summarized
- Consistent. When crafting policies, you should ensure that the language is the same throughout and that your policies align with any existing company guidelines
- Compliant. All of your policies should comply with any relevant laws and regulations
These elements are essential when it comes to writing effective policies.
Why are policies important for businesses?
So why should businesses write policies?
- Provide guidance on how to handle issues that may arise in the workplace
- Help ensure compliance with laws and regulations
- Create a culture of transparency, accountability, and fairness in the organization
- Provide employees with clear expectations and guidance around their roles and responsibilities
- Help reduce the risk of disputes or costly legal action taken against an organization
2. Researching policies
Regardless of the type of policy you're developing, it's essential to conduct thorough research. This will help you identify best practices and find examples or templates to guide your policy writing.
You can do both internal and external research.
Internal in a way that you can interview employees, look through past documentation, and identify any existing policies or procedures that can be used as guidance.
External research includes looking at industry standards, legal requirements, policy templates, and what different types of policies are. In fact, it's important to know what policies would be beneficial for your specific business.
To make your research easier, here are some of the most common business-related policies:
- Customer service policies.
- Vacation and time-off policies.
- Policies regarding employee complaints.
- Health and safety policies.
- Working from home policies.
For all of these policy examples, a simple Google search can offer a lot of inspiration. For example, Googling "customer service policy" gives you a lot of ideas and even templates you can use on your own policies.
When doing research, it's also essential to consult with stakeholders who the policy may impact, as they can provide valuable insights. This can help ensure that your policy accurately reflects the organization's and its stakeholders' needs.
Once you have gathered the necessary information, you can start writing the policy document.
3. Drafting policy
When it comes to writing the actual policy, it can be hard to get started. We've put together a step-by-step guide to help you craft effective and understandable policies.
1. Define the purpose & scope of the policy
Everything starts with why you’re creating the policy in the first place.
Clearly state the purpose of the policy, as well as its boundaries. This will give the policy context and make it easier for everyone to understand.
Make sure to include any details that are important such as who the policy applies to, what it covers, and how long it will remain in effect.
2. Identify responsibilities & procedures
As you write the policy, make sure to include all the relevant details. If there are specific tasks or procedures that need to be followed, make sure to include those as well.
And make sure to list who is responsible for what, as this will help ensure that everyone knows their role and can take action when needed.
3. Create a standard policy template
Creating a standard policy template makes writing policies now and in the future easier. This means creating a standard format that applies to all policies.
We've listed some ideas:
1. Use a professional font
Policies are formal documents and should be written using a professional, easy-to-read font.
Regularly used and professional fonts like Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Calibri are all great for policies.
2. Keep the font size consistent
You should also keep the font size consistent across all your policies. Typically, 12 pt. is a good size for policies, making them easy to scan and comprehend. This is different for headings; you should use larger sizes to make them stand out.
3. No bright colors should be used
Policies should be professional documents, so it's important to use colors that reflect this. Avoid bright and flashy colors and stick with more subtle tones, like black and white.
You can also use colors to differentiate sections or highlight essential points when appropriate.
4. Be clear
When writing policies, clarity should be your number one priority. The goal is to ensure that everyone understands the policy, which means using simple language and avoiding long, wordy sentences.
As a baseline for all of your policies, avoid jargon or technical terms that may be difficult to understand.
4. Start writing the policy
With all the research and preparation done, it's time to start drafting the policy.
To help you, here are some things to include in the policy:
- Header: By only reading the header, it should be clear what the policy is about. Include the policy title, date, and any other key information.
- Introduction: Provide a brief overview of the policy and what it covers. The introduction line should help set the tone for what follows.
- Purpose of the policy: If you didn't already do it in the introduction, go into more detail about why this policy exists and how it will benefit your organization.
- Body text: This is where you will include any procedures, responsibilities, or exceptions related to the policy. Break up these points into smaller paragraphs, as this will make it easier to read and understand.
- Conclusion: Wrap up the policy by summarizing the points you made.
- Signature: Include a signature or date line at the end of the policy to indicate when it was written and approved.
- References: Include any documents, resources, or links to websites that were used in the policy.
There are obviously more things that you can include in the policy, but this should give you a good starting point. Think of what’s essential in your company's own individual context and include those details.
4. Reviewing policies
Once the policy is written, it's important to keep reviewing and revising it regularly. This helps ensure that the policy remains relevant and up-to-date with changes in regulations and customer needs.
To do this, you can conduct operational improvements, such as gap analysis, to identify gaps in the policy and see where improvements can be made. Again here, you should also seek feedback from stakeholders, as this will help ensure that their needs and concerns are taken into account.
Incorporate any changes based on feedback and compliance requirements, and don’t forget small things like updating the policy's header with the new version date. This will make it easier for everyone to know when the policy was last updated.
5. Use Scribe & Pages for policy writing
Without efficient tools, policy writing can take an unnecessary amount of manual work.
Scribe and Pages provide features that can help streamline the process of creating and managing policies, from start to finish.
With Scribe and Pages, you can easily create templates for policy development, share policies with stakeholders, automate document sharing, and more.
These tools also allow you to quickly and easily manage your policy revisions, ensuring that everyone involved is kept up-to-date on the latest version.
Creating and maintaining effective policies is an important part of running a successful business. However, it can be difficult to know where to start.
By following the steps outlined above, you can create a compelling policy that meets all your needs and is easy for everyone to understand. If you want to speed things up — using Scribe and Pages can make everything so much easier.
By recording your screen, Scribe helps you document processes that automatically turn into step-by-step guides. And with Pages, you can format and create the actual policies. Combining these two tools make it easy for every team member to access and understand policies.