Preparing policies and procedures can be some of the most tedious work. Because of this, they are frequently put off. In all areas ranging from human resources to operations to safety they can be incredibly helpful in protecting a company from suits, but ultimately, they are also liberating for the management. Further, they give a good benchmark for expected performance from employees in effect setting up “good fences” so that they know how to be “good neighbors” with management.
Employee handbooks generally lead to improved employee performance and morale. There will always be issues with your team, and that is the nature of dealing with people. However, when they know the rules and expectations a sense of overall fairness takes hold. If an employer fairly applies them this can lead to avoiding annoying and expensive unemployment, discrimination, and other claims.
They may not like the rules, but at least they know they are there. This can be incredibly useful. Once at our firm meeting on Tuesday a member of the firm asked, “Do we have Good Friday off?” I replied, “I don’t know, go check the office manual; that’s why I wrote it.” It was great! I did not have to decide and everyone was happy enough with whatever the procedures said. Good Friday came along and when I came back from lunch no one was there. I had forgotten about the conversation and wondered if everyone quit or maybe the rapture happened, and I got left behind. Fortunately, someone showed up to remind me that we did in fact have Good Friday off.
Having good operations procedures also helps the owner or managers not have to be involved in routine details of how the company does its work. This can be a huge relief that allows them to focus on other things like building the business, though frequently they will have to spot check the work or intervene in critical areas. Our firm has handled the commercial collection for one of our core clients for over a dozen years. The cases have a lot of similarities and with my experience I know how they need to be handled. When our firm started growing, I wrote a 65-page manual on how to handle these cases and now we use this to have other members of the firm take the lion’s share of this work. I step in on the complicated or unusual cases and have spot checks built in where I monitor the progress.
Another aspect of having good operations procedures is they prevent claims against the company both for breach of contract and other lawsuits. When your team knows how to do their work, the company naturally runs well, the work gets done, and problems with customers or others tend not to occur. Sometimes problems still do occur and sound procedures offer a way to lessen claims, particularly injury ones. The reason for this is that when a company has written procedures and yet something goes wrong, the procedures give your attorney a way to show that your company isn’t responsible and that a mistake was just made in the workflow. This is a much more defensible position than standing accused of recklessly running a company without regard for how the work gets done.