How to Write Policies and Procedures for Your Business

Updated on February 27, 2018
davidlivermore profile image

David has over 10 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

This is a guide on how to write policy and procedure for your workplace.
This is a guide on how to write policy and procedure for your workplace. | Source

What is a Policy and Procedure?

So what is a policy and procedure? Simply put, it's step-by-step instructions on how to do something in your organization. It could be something general like what is expected of all employees or it could be how to complete a specific job task. Either way, a policy and procedure can get those thoughts down on paper for everyone to see and follow.

This article will cover the following:

  • What to include in a policy and procedure
  • How to format a policy and procedure.
  • An example of one
  • Tips
  • The pros and cons of using a policy and procedure.

How many policies and procedures are you looking to write or revise for your organization?

See results

What to Include in a Policy and Procedure

Below is what is needed in every policy and procedure.

  • Header - This should include the name of your organization, the department, etc. This will identify who the procedure is intended for.
  • Title - The title of the procedure. Try not to make this too long. Make it easy to remember and refer to.
  • Procedure Number - This is for easy reference as well. This allows procedures to be in a certain order in a book, binder, online database, etc. Not only should they be in numerical order, there should be equal spacing between the procedure number (i.e. 100, 105, 110, etc.).
  • Effective Date - The date that the procedure was first made effective. Can be important in trying to establish a time line for a certain job task.
  • Revised Date - If changes were made to the procedure at one point, then this date needs to be changed to the date the procedure was revised. This keeps everyone up-to-date on the current changes.
  • Reviewed Date - If the procedure was reviewed to see if any changes need to be made, then this date needs to be changed. It doesn't matter if no changes were made, this date should be changed to indicated when it was last reviewed.
  • Authorized By - Name of the person who authorized the release of the policy and procedure. This would be a department head or supervisor.
  • Policy - This should go into the who, what, when, where, why, and how. However, this portion should be brief. At the most it should be an overview of why the policy is in effect.
  • Directive - If something has to be done or if there is an overall instruction that the person must follow, this should be in the directive. Don't include this unless there is something critical that has to be noticed straight away.
  • Procedure - This will be the majority of your policy and procedure. It provides the itemized steps on how to accomplish what the policy dictates.
  • Page Number - There should be a page number on each page.
  • Page Headers - The page headers should include the title and procedure number of the policy and procedure.
  • Initials - This should be the initials of the last person who reviewed the policy and procedure. It should also include the date of when it was last reviewed.
  • Examples - These will be on separate pages that won't have a header, page numbers, etc. These are examples of what is being described at important steps in the procedure.

How to Format a Policy and Procedure

There are a few basic rules when it comes to writing a policy and procedure:

  • Font - The font should be one commonly used and recognized, but isn't considered unprofessional. Comic Sans, for example, is an unprofessional font.
  • Font Size - At the most you shouldn't have a large font size used throughout the procedure. It should always be consistent from procedure to procedure.
  • Colors - Colors aren't really necessary. The procedure should be on a white background with a black font. However, colors can be used in examples.
  • Spacing - The procedure part should be spaced appropriately for easy reading. If there are no spaces between steps, then the text will run together when someone reads the policy.
  • Margins - These should be made at whatever the standard in your organization is for other documents. This makes users more inclined to read and use the procedure.

Below are the recommended styling requirements for each of the categories I listed above.

  • Header - The header should always be center, bold, in all capital letters, and at the very top of the policy. It should also have the largest size font as compared with the rest of the policy and procedure.
  • Title and Procedure Number - Both of these should be on the same line since they are both used for reference in the policy and procedure. These can be the same size or slightly smaller than the header but should be bold and in all capital letters as well. The title should be on the far left, with the procedure number on the far right.
  • Effective, Revised, and Reviewed Date - I have seen these done in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are in their own column, while other times I have seen them in their own row. It's a personal preference, but they should always be below the title and have a small size font. Just like the previous categories, these should be in bold and capitalized.
  • Authorized By - This can be the last line in the upper portion of the policy and procedure. This should be in bold, capitalized, and on the far left side of the document.
  • Policy - There should be something to indicate that the policy starts at this point. Typically, you can make the word "policy" in all capital letters and in bold, while the policy itself is explained not in bold letters or capitalized. You will want to justify the text on the document as well.
  • Directive - This is something you usually want to stand out, so it will be in bold and in all capital letters. Justify the paragraph so looks good on the policy and procedure.
  • Procedure - This is the hardest part to explain because it is so detailed oriented. Basically, you will want to separate your steps as much as possible. You don't want paragraphs of information, you want simple to follow text. So break up as much as you can by using different kinds of lists at different indentations. For example, A.1.i.a., each at a different indentation than the one before it. However, when moving on to the "B", it has to be the same indentation as the "A" before it. The example below will show a real example of this.
  • Page Number - Should be centered in the footer of the document. Either make the number for each page, or show the current page and the total number of pages (i.e. Page 1 of 2). The first page doesn't have to have a page number on it.
  • Page Headers - The page header on each subsequent page after the first should look the same as it is for the title and procedure number is on the first page.
  • Initials - At the end very end of each procedure the person reviewing/revising the procedure should include their initials and the date they last reviewed/revised it.
  • Examples - These are separate from the procedure being written. They can include screenshots from a program, tables to review to, etc. At the relevant point in the procedure the example should be referred to (i.e. Example A). Then in the upper-right hand corner of each example there should be a reference to what example that is.

Best Font to Use for Policy and Procedure

There are four fonts I recommend:

  1. Arial - This font is considered the industry standard for most documents. A lot of computers default to this font and it is easy to read. You can never go wrong with this font.
  2. Times New Roman - Another industry standard. It is also used as the default font for some computer programs. Some people consider this an old style that the first generation of computer users recognize.
  3. Calibri - For a softer approach you can go with this font. It's easy on the eyes and smooths out the look of a document. Since policy and procedure can be boring to read and write, this could be one of the better fonts to use.
  4. Georgia - This is an uncommonly used font, but one that can jump out at you. I consider it a cross between Arial and Times New Roman.

I wouldn't use any front that is too difficult to read or looks unprofessional. No one will take the policy and procedure seriously if an unprofessional font is used.

The picture below shows all four fonts in action.

Examples of the fonts mentioned above.
Examples of the fonts mentioned above. | Source
An example of a policy and procedure.
An example of a policy and procedure. | Source

Formatting Used in the Above Policy and Procedure Example

Category
Format
Header
14 pt., Bold, Center
Title
14 pt., Bold
Procedure Number
14 pt., Bold
Dates
12 pt., Bold, Center
Authorized By
12 pt., Bold, Center
Policy
12 pt., "Policy" is bold, Justified
Directive
12 pt., Bold, Justified
Procedure
12 pt., Justified
Page Number
10 pt., Center
Page Header
12 pt., Bold
Initials
12 pt.
This table covers the formatting I used in the above example. The font used is Arial and the text is defaulted on the let side unless specified otherwise.

Do you think policy and procedure should be strictly followed or should some wiggle room be allowed?

See results

Tips Regarding Policy and Procedure

Here are some general tips to follow in regards to policy and procedure.

  • Review procedures often. Just because you write a procedure doesn't mean it's done. Periodically you need to go back and review your procedure for any changes. Some recommend to review them every few years, but I like to review them each year, if possible. Furthermore, when something does change in the organization that affects a procedure, the policy and procedure should be changed right away.
  • Have the procedure reviewed before it's made available. Have a few people review the procedure to verify it makes sense. Include new employees as well as the experienced ones in this process. They can provide information you may not have thought of.
  • Have everyone confirm they reviewed the procedure once it's released. Once I finish writing or revising a procedure, I send it all to all of my staff. They sign and date when they review it. I also e-mail staff to advise of the changes made to a policy and procedure. This way I have documentation that I notified everyone.
  • Develop a table of contents. If you end up developing a lot of policy and procedure, develop a table of contents to make it easy to locate a specific policy.
  • Allow for some wiggle room in a procedure. Staff shouldn't be expected to follow policy and procedure to the letter. It should serve as a guide to get the job done. As long as no errors were committed and no laws broken, then some leeway can be allowed when following a procedure.
  • Keep the procedure as short as possible. Don't include every scenario or situation that could come up. If something happens once a year, why develop a procedure on it? That could best be served in a memo or e-mail.
  • Verify that you are not breaking any rules or laws in a procedure. In large organizations you may have to verify you are not putting the employer or employee in harms way when developing a procedure. If necessary, include the legal basis why a policy and procedure was developed in the policy portion of the procedure.
  • Google it. Before you start writing a policy, search online to see if any other organization have written a similar policy. Don't plagiarize the procedure. Instead, just read it and create yours based on the ideas of the one you find.

The Pros of Using Policy and Procedure

Below are the pros in developing a policy and procedure:

  • Allows for a uniformed way to do things. Without having a policy and procedure in place it could allow for people to do things the way they want. They could make missteps or cause errors in the process. Policy and procedure solves that problem.
  • It eliminates the constant asking of questions from staff. As a supervisor I constantly receive questions from my staff. Now that our policy and procedure is fully updated, I can just point them to the procedure to answer their questions. However, sometimes clarification on procedure is necessary.
  • Policy and procedure holds employees accountable. If done correctly, the use of policy and procedure can hold your staff to a specific standard. Someone can't say they weren't aware of something or there is nothing for them to refer to. With policy and procedure, it keeps staff aware of what is expected of them.
  • Great for training new employees. When I receive a new employee, I spend the first day or two working closely with them. I show them the bulk of the job, but then I walk away. The one thing I leave them with is policy and procedure. As they have questions, I direct them to that procedure. They learn about the job and where to go if they have questions. Plus this frees me up to do my job.
  • It can set goals. The great thing about having job duties in writing is that it can set goals for your staff. The procedure can outline what has to be done and when it has to bed one by. Staff can treat that as a goal for themselves in an effort to promote, earn raises, etc.

Rule A: Don't. Rule A1: Rule A doesn't exist. Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or non-existence of Rules A, A1 or A2.

— R. D. Laing

The Cons of Using Policy and Procedure

Below are the cons in developing a policy and procedure:

  • It stifles creativity. Staff feel as if they have no freedom in their decision making. They won't think outside of the box or find new, creative solutions to a problem if they feel they always have to follow a set procedure. I always tell my staff that procedures are meant to be guidelines, not hard and fast rules. As long as you reach the goal successfully, the how doesn't matter.
  • Requires constant updating which can be time consuming. Whenever something changes someone has to go back to a policy to revise it. When a new job duties arises, someone has to write up the procedure on how to do it. It's a very time consuming process. Each week I am dealing with updating, reviewing, or planning out how to update a policy and procedure.
  • It can stunt the growth of an organization. A lot of employees go back to the phrase that something has "always been done this way so why change it?". This isn't the same as stopping someone from being creative. Instead, policy and procedure can hold back change in an organization if someone has a document that states something has always been done a certain way.
  • Employees can interpret a step in a procedure multiple ways. Someone may read a step one way, while another can read a step a different way, when the writer of the procedure could have meant something completely different. Words on a piece of paper are open to interpretation. So when a procedure is developed, especially a lengthy one, there should be some verbal communication about it.
  • They are boring to write. I have sometimes spent multiple days in a row writing and revising procedure. It can be a very long and drawn out process, so it's not the most exciting thing in my job. The problem with it being boring is that you are more apt to make mistakes, which is why having multiple people check the policy after any revisions is important.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 David Livermore

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • davidlivermore profile imageAUTHOR

        David Livermore 

        4 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

        I hope this hub proves useful for you then. Thank you!

      • profile image

        Janice Horner 

        4 years ago

        Hi David, I found your hub very interesting. I work in middle management and we have a company handbook full of policies for different procedures. Some of them I feel are necessary to keep focused on what is required from an employee. Others I feel should be updated or competed re-written!

        I have booked marked your page because if I ever need to write a policy you have provided a template full of information. Great hub, voted up!

      • SAQIB6608 profile image

        SAQIB 

        4 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

        Common tips, easily narrated. Keep UP

      • janshares profile image

        Janis Leslie Evans 

        4 years ago from Washington, DC

        This is an excellent outline of how to structure a business. It's very informative and useful, even for a small business. I have a small counseling practice and wrote out a "policies and procedures" document I send to all new clients. This gives me some tips to use as I look it over for refinement and inclusion of things I may have looked over. Thank you, davidlivermore for this tutorial. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      • uthmansy profile image

        shuaib 

        4 years ago from nigeria

        thanks for this insight article

      • David Ortega profile image

        David Ortega 

        4 years ago from Altoona, Iowa

        Nice job. I write a lot of technical policies and procedures. Correct font selection is certainly important. I would add that Times New Roman or fonts WITH serifs are easier on the eye than fonts sans (without) serifs like Areal.

      • dilipchandra12 profile image

        Dilip Chandra 

        4 years ago from India

        Good information and the tutorial is helpful.

      • old albion profile image

        Graham Lee 

        4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

        Hi David. Congratulations on your presentation. Your hub is greatly informative, research time must have been extensive, and it shows. Tip Top.

        Voted up and all.

        Graham.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)