Having good IT policies can be good for your company. Learn what policies and procedures you should have in place.
IT Policies and Procedures were seen by my previous supervisor as a “nice-to-have” and “motherhood stuff” and therefore a business should not waste their time writing them. However, I believe these opinions came from a lack of understanding as to why a business would need well-written IT Policies and Procedures. Perhaps, the problem is that this person felt that policies and procedures don’t work or that they were difficult to keep up to date. It is true that due to the ever-increasing rate of change, these once, “well-written” policies and procedures can get “stale” (ineffective) very fast. But, that doesn’t mean that a business doesn’t need them.
It is my opinion that well-written policies and procedures allow employees to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities within predefined limits. Basically, policies and procedures allow management to guide operations without constant management intervention. Constant intervention equates to increase operating expenses that ultimately detract from your company’s profitability.
To understand why policies and procedures are so important we need to know what they are, and the differences between them.
What is a Policy and a Procedure?
Wikipedia defines a policy as a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making. Policies to assist in subjective decision making would usually assist senior management with decisions that must consider the relative merits of several factors before making decisions and as a result are often hard to objectively test e.g. work-life balance policy. In contrast policies to assist in objective decision making are usually operational in nature and can be objectively tested e.g. password policy. A procedure, on the other-hand is a document written to support a "policy." A procedure is designed to describe who, what, where, when, and why by means of establishing corporate accountability in support of the implementation of a "policy.” A well-written procedure will help eliminate common misunderstandings by identifying job responsibilities and establishing boundaries for the jobholders. Good procedures allow managers to control events in advance and prevent the organization (and employees) from making costly mistakes. You can think of a procedure as a road map where the trip details are highlighted to prevent a person from getting lost or ‘wandering’ off an acceptable path identified by the company’s management team.
So why does my business need them?
The need for effective workplace policies and procedures has never been more important in today’s changing workplace.
Well-written workplace policies:
- are consistent with the values of the organisation and employment legislation
- demonstrate that the organisation is being operated in an efficient and businesslike manner
- ensure uniformity and consistency in decision-making and operational procedures
- save time when a new problem can be handled quickly and effectively through an existing policy
- foster stability and continuity
- maintain the direction of the organisation even during periods of change
- provide the framework for business planning
- assist in assessing performance and establishing accountability
- clarify functions and responsibilities.
Well-written workplace procedures:
- are designed well with a solid structure.
- address planning and effectiveness criteria and metrics required for proper operation
- define who does what when and where with criteria for success
- are part of a business system of core business processes. A good procedure does not work in isolation.
- are clear, specific, and to the point.
- have a solid business case or reason for existence.
- are direct and use active voice construction. Subject -> verb -> noun.
- include clear references to supporting documents, procedures, records, forms, manuals, work instructions, job aids, job descriptions, or compliance information.
- separate the step-by-step instructions that make up the core of the procedure from the meta-data that typically makes up the header or the beginning of the procedure. a
- are used and updated regularly.
Why are IT Policies and Procedures my Friend?
IT Policies and Procedures are your friend in business because like a friend you will need them when you least expect it. They:
- help employees know what is expected of them with respect to standards of behaviour and performance.
- set rules and guidelines for decision-making in routine situations so that employees and managers do not need to continually ask senior managers what to do.
- help you to adopt a consistent and clear response across the company to continually refer to situations involving employee interaction.
- allow you to demonstrate good faith that employees will be treated fairly and equally.
- allow you to have an accepted method of dealing with complaints and misunderstandings in place to help avoid favouritism.
- set a framework for delegation of decision making.
- give you a means of communicating information to new employees.
- offer you protection from breaches of employment legislation, such as equal opportunity laws.
What Policies and Procedures Should I Have Immediately?
- Expenses Policy
- Staff Disciplinary procedure
- Staff Grievance procedure
- Staff Appraisal procedure
- Sick Leave Policy and procedure
- Leave policy and procedure
- Time off in Lieu Policy and procedure
- Job evaluation
- E-mail/internet use policy.
- Training policy
- Quality/monitoring policy
Things to remember
- Policies and procedures need to be reviewed and updated at least annually to make improvements and keep them current.
- Employees need initial training on procedures but should have continuous refreshers to inform them of changes in practice and to remind them of expectations for following procedures.
- Records should be kept in employee files to document training.
- Policies and procedures should be consistently reviewed for its effectiveness and to ensure that what is being done in practice is adding value.
- Most procedures should have checklists that simplify the process and serve as a reminder for employees.