Developing Office Policies Manuals / Operating Guidelines
“Policies and guidelines are developed by the company to describe best practices, clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further the goal of creating a reference to best practices in behavior, rules, structure and culture within an organization.”
The importance of a policies, procedures and operating policies document within any enterprise can not be overstated. The document is the foundation from which an organization is built. It contains the parameters of conduct and expectations from each employee as well as what disciplinary action will be taken if the policies are not followed. Without this document the company is exposed to legal challenges and potentially employee claims that could expose the company to very expensive litigation. To open the doors of a business without a sound Policies and Guidelines manual is more risky than setting out on a long drive without auto insurance or owning a home without homeowners insurance, the company is looking fate in the eye with the expectation that the worst will happen. Some general examples of what is contained in a policy manual would include:
Ethics policies address issues such as honesty, fairness, integrity and respect. For example, the long-standing ethics policy regarding honest instituted at Levi Strauss and Co. as quoted by Inc.com reads: “Honesty: We will not say things that are false. We will never deliberately mislead. We will be as candid as possible, openly and freely sharing information, as appropriate to the relationship”.
Policies imposed in the area of human resources address issues such as hiring and termination, benefits, promotion and salary increase and discipline. For example, a typical human resources policy addressing hiring might read: “New hires shall be subject to a three month probationary period during which employment is ‘at-will.’”
Customer service policies address issues such as employee attitude toward customers. A sample policy dealing with customer relations as reported by Infonet.com reads: “All employees deal with our customers! No matter what your position, every employee impacts the customer in some way. Employees are reminded to promote the company just as they would represent their families. This means being friendly and courteous on the business property, while visiting our stores, driving our vehicles on roads and highways and in daily interactions. After all, you never know who knows the person you are talking to… Other ways employees can enhance customer relationships are to answer phones before three rings, transfer office calls correctly, follow through on promises, give updates if necessary, greet walk-in customers or just smile and say hello. Treating other as you expect to be treated goes a long way in customer service relationships.”
Accounting policies deal with how money is handled in the company, both the spending and the documenting of inflow and out-flow. An example of a typical accounting policy regarding receipt of gifts to an organization might read: “Gifts of stock, bonds, manuscripts, art and antiques are recorded and such information is openly available to officers, stock holders and employees as with any other corporate asset.”
Training and Orientation
Once hired, employees typically go through an orientation and training process to learn about their new employer and how their job function fits into the overall goals of the business. During this time, employees may attend training sessions, shadow other employees, get assigned a mentor or participate in a virtual training session provided by the company. It’s necessary to include training and orientation procedures in personnel policies so new employees understand and are prepared for their new positions.
Companies offer employees a diverse set of benefits, including everything from health, dental and vision coverage to short-term disability coverage, a 401k plan, life insurance, employee housing grants and tuition reimbursement. Some companies also work in conjunction with local businesses to provide discount cards and rates to their employees. Listing employee benefits within personnel policies informs employees about all the options the company offers.
Work schedule, Breaks and Leave
Whether a company offers flexible schedules or employees work in shifts, personnel policies provide guidelines for when an employee should report to the office for work and when he should leave. Personnel policies also detail the rules for taking lunch hours and other breaks. These policies also include the procedures for calling in sick, information on jury duty and how time off for bereavement is handled.
Salaries and Pay Schedule
While employees at a company will likely have diverse salaries, including salary ranges or a salary scale in personnel policies, where applicable, will give employees an idea of how much money they can potentially make if promoted. Whether paid weekly, biweekly or monthly, employees should have written documentation that outlines their pay schedules. Include information about direct deposit if it’s an option offered by your company.
Performance Review and Promotions
Employee performance reviews vary based on the company and industry, so the personnel policy should tell employees about the procedures the company follows. It should say when reviews take place and the methods used to conduct them. The policy should also explain what the reviews are used for and how they may affect promotions.
Personnel policies should state how employees or employers can terminate employment at a company. The policies will outline how much advance notice must be given and in what format, as well as information on severance packages, returning company keys and equipment and ending access to company records.