14 Tips for Writing Policies and Procedures Quickly
To help you create more effective policies and procedures, we’ve gathered insights from 14 industry leaders, including founders, CEOs, and managing attorneys. From incorporating visual elements to writing with simple language, these experts share their top tips for crafting better policies and procedures that drive success.
- Incorporate Visual Elements
- Consider Your Audience
- Emphasize Clarity and Conciseness
- Plan and Outline Ahead
- Simplify Language and Tone
- Use Your Active Voice
- Account for Exceptions
- Embrace Feedback in Development
- Use Consistent Templates
- Leverage AI Language Models
- Gather Stakeholder Feedback
- Organize Information Logically
- Focus On Clarity and Engagement
- Write With Simple Language
Incorporate Visual Elements
Including visual elements in your policies and procedures is an effective writing tip. Consider using infographics, flowcharts, or diagrams to illustrate complicated processes and make them simpler to understand rather than relying solely on text.
Visual aids can improve comprehension, captivate readers, and make it easier to implement rules and procedures. You can increase clarity, decrease ambiguity, and ensure better adherence to established guidelines by visually presenting the information.
Consider Your Audience
One tip for writing better policies and procedures is to use an audience-focused approach. Consider who will read the document and what language they use in their everyday conversations.
Using terms that are familiar to an audience can help ensure an understanding of the policy or procedure, thus making it more effective. For example, instead of referring to a hospitality company’s peer review as a “performance review,” consider using a term that is closer to the employee experience, such as “listening session” or “team feedback process”. This will better resonate with those reading the procedure. Doing so ensures greater understanding and compliance with the policy.
Emphasize Clarity and Conciseness
One tip for writing better policies and procedures is to ensure that they are clear and concise. Try to avoid using overly complicated language or jargon, as this can make it difficult for employees and customers to understand the policy. Use diagrams, illustrations, and other visuals where appropriate to help communicate your policy more effectively.
Plan and Outline Ahead
One tip for writing better policies and procedures is to create a plan before beginning the document. Draft an outline of the intended structure and content ahead of time; this will help to ensure that all needed information is included in the end product.
It’s wise to vary the reading level used throughout; this means including “plain English” definitions along with the more technical language as necessary. For instance, if a procedure calls for using a specific software application, be sure to include both a step-by-step guide on how to use it, and shorthanded commands that are applicable when necessary.
Simplify Language and Tone
Policies and procedures are undoubtedly legal and are based on formal laws, rules, and regulations. But that doesn’t mean that the language you present them in has to be as complicated too.
Keep the language simple and understandable, simplify the legalese so the idea is conveyed without using complex words and phrases, and write in a style that is conversational, not authoritative or scary the way legal language sounds.
Using legal language will only make everything sound daunting, while the aim here is to relay how these policies and procedures are in place to help stakeholders.
Use Your Active Voice
You can improve the readability and engagement of your work by switching to active voice from passive voice. According to studies, active voice might actually increase understanding by up to 40%. Rather than saying “The report was written by the team,” for instance, say “The team wrote the report.” It can seem like a minor change, but it can have a significant impact on the reader’s perception of your work.
Account for Exceptions
Over the years, I’ve realized that writing effective policies and procedures isn’t always about being inflexible. It’s about planning for the unexpected, the exceptions. My advice is to always accommodate the “what ifs” in your documents. For instance, if a cleaner is supposed to mop Lobby A at 3 PM, what happens if they’re sick that day?
Include these scenarios in your guidelines. It makes your policies more comprehensive and easier to follow. Therefore, I recommend everyone account for exceptions when creating their policies, as it makes all the difference.
Embrace Feedback in Development
Feedback is an essential component of policy and procedure development. It allows organizations to identify areas where policies and procedures can be improved. Soliciting feedback can encourage staff to become more engaged in the policy development process, increasing buy-in and support for policies and procedures.
Feedback can also improve communication between staff and management, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Policies and procedures are only effective if staff understand and follow them. Feedback can help to ensure that policies and procedures are clear and actionable, making it easier for staff to comply.
Last, feedback can also promote innovation by identifying areas where policies and procedures may be hindering creativity or new ideas. Overall, feedback is critical in improving the quality and effectiveness of policies and procedures, ensuring that they are relevant, actionable, and compliant.
Use Consistent Templates
When writing policies and procedures, it helps when they all look the same. This ensures your team all have the same understanding of what these policies and procedures are, and they can recognize them based on their formatting.
Using the same template also ensures you are including all the components and details, and it simply keeps things much more organized. It also quickens the time to create these policies if you are simply plugging information into a template instead of always starting from scratch.
Leverage AI-Language Models
Large language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have taken the world by storm in 2023.
To write policies and procedures, I strongly suggest using a prompt such as “Write me a company procedure for closing down the office at the close of business. Include locking the outside doors, ensuring lights are off, and the security system is armed.”
I posted this prompt into ChatGPT just now and received a perfect first draft of a procedure.
You can take this draft and then review, edit, and revise it.
These tools allow you to go quickly from a blank page to a document you are now editing. This will save you a lot of time and effort and give you a better result.
Gather Stakeholder Feedback
Gather feedback from stakeholders. Once you have drafted the policies and procedures, consult with other leaders and ask for their insights. They could mention ideas or circumstances to include or point out regulations that must be updated and polished.
Printing a draft of the policies and procedures works for other managers and executives to comment on, or using an electronic policy management platform to develop a workflow in reviewing and approving such documents.
Meanwhile, conducting a trial period for the newly designed procedures among employees will give you an idea of its feasibility. Likewise, it will allow you to improve or adjust processes accordingly.
Organize Information Logically
By using headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance readability and make policies and procedures easier for users to navigate, you can organize information logically. This structure provides a clear and concise framework for understanding and implementing the guidelines.
It allows readers to find the specific information they need quickly, improving comprehension and adherence to the policies and procedures. The logical organization also facilitates future updates and revisions, as it provides a framework for inserting new information or making changes without disrupting the overall structure.
By employing this tip, you can create policies and procedures that are user-friendly, accessible, and effectively communicate the desired guidelines and processes.
Focus On Clarity and Engagement
My number one tip for writing better policies and procedures is to focus on one concept at a time. Make that concept as clear as possible and educate your employees. You cannot expect them to read and remember information immediately.
Give them a good reason to learn and follow any new rules during training, such as maximizing efficiency, for example. Show them that their valuable contribution in following procedures helps reach organizational goals.
Write With Simple Language
One essential writing tip you can implement is clarity and simplicity in language. Policies and procedures serve as guidelines for employees to understand and follow, so it’s crucial to use clear and concise language easily understandable by all readers.
To achieve this, avoid unnecessary jargon or technical terms that may confuse or alienate employees. Use plain language that conveys the information effectively without compromising accuracy.
Break down complex concepts into simple, actionable steps to provide clear guidance. Organize the policies and procedures into logical sections with subheadings.
This helps readers navigate the document quickly and locate the specific information they need. Use short, varied sentence structures to maintain reader engagement and interest throughout the document.
Keeping it simple will ensure employees understand and adhere to the guidelines more effectively.
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