Policy Manual Writing Tips

In every organization, at one time or another, a need arises to prepare a written policy, procedure or even a complete policy manual. Human resource experts, for example, have long supported the idea of summarizing an organization’s personnel practices into a written personnel policy manual.

The fast food giants operate their myriad of restaurant outlets using operational and policy manuals to assure consistency in product quality and services worldwide. Many retail organizations define merchandise and cash handling procedures to guide employees to accurately perform daily tasks. In recent years, many manufacturing and service firms have adopted certain written policy guidelines in order to receive the coveted “ISO” certification awarded by the International Standards Organization demonstrating a high level of quality and competence in their respective field of endeavor.

In addition, many organizations subject to government regulations are required to define certain written policies. Federal government contractors, for example, must maintain a drug free workplace and communicate the organization’s policy to employees. As another example, the health care industry and other organizations that handle protected health information will soon be required to define and communicate certain policies designed to protect the privacy of medical records.

Sooner or later, most managers, supervisors and regular working folks may be called on to prepare a workplace procedure or even a policy manual. Here are some tips to help you through this process.

• First, identify your purpose and audience. Who will read and use your policy or procedure? Write with your reader in mind.

• Get organized to write. Collect information or materials that may useful to refer to as you write your policy or procedure. It can be helpful to get input from others. Ask for suggestions from individuals who will use the procedure or who may be affected by it.

• Develop an outline. An outline helps to arrange one’s thoughts into an organized sequence. If your are writing a procedure, identify the action that starts the procedure and each of the succeeding steps that follow.

• Consider the who, what, where, when, how and why of the issue or procedure that your are working on. By answering these questions, and putting them in a logical order, you have effectively created a useful procedure.

• Be sure to observe good grammar guidelines. Keep your message clear and concise. Use sentences that are short and simple. Try to anticipate your reader’s questions and answer those questions as you write your policy or procedure.

• Complete a draft and then set it aside for a while. Look at it a day or two later for a clear perspective. Also, for a more objective review of your work, ask a co-worker to review your draft and offer suggestions.

Writing is not easy. Even those individuals who make a living with the written word have good days and bad days. Sometimes, the words just do not flow as quickly or smoothly as we would like. Persistence, patience and a good erasure – or a delete key – help to get the job done. For a free policy writing checklist, fax your request to 630-513-8237.

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