Difference Between Policies and Procedures
In a nutshell, a policy explains what to do and why, while a procedure explains how to do it.
Think of a policy as “the big picture,” serving as a guideline and setting the direction for your company. It conveys your company’s culture, values, and philosophy. It sets expectations for both internal audiences (employees) and external audiences (customers and community).
A procedure, on the other hand, describes the specific steps to take to go in the direction the policy sets forth. It might include a checklist of actions to take or a step-by-step process to follow, including approval that might be needed or reporting instructions.
It’s similar to the difference between a goal and a task, with the goal outlining the end result you’re aiming for and the task defining the specific action you need to take to meet that goal.
Examples of Corporate Policies and Procedures You Should Have
What policies and procedures should a company have? It depends, as some of the corporate policies and procedures your business needs will depend on factors such as your company size and your industry.
But generally speaking, these are some common company policies and procedures you should put in writing.
Code of conduct
While you don’t want to overwhelm employees with volumes of rules, you do want to lay the groundwork for an ethical, professional atmosphere tied to compliance.
The goal is to create a safe environment and enjoyable work culture that makes people feel welcome and comfortable. This goes for employees, vendors, visitors, and customers – basically anyone your business deals with internally or externally.
A good code of conduct policy should provide a roadmap for how you want your employees to behave.
It should address specifics such as dress code, ethics, safety, Internet usage, bullying, harassment, etc. Include both acceptable and unacceptable behaviors so there’s no ambiguity on what your business will and will not tolerate.
Finally, clearly spell out the consequence of failing to meet expectations, including warnings, disciplinary actions, and, if warranted, termination.
Attendance/vacation/time off policy
You might want to create one umbrella HR policy that covers several related employee benefits areas. Or you can choose to break each down into a separate company policy, depending on the amount of detail you need to provide.
Employees need to clearly understand their work schedules and benefits as they relate to holidays, vacation, sick days, meals and breaks, maternity leave, and similar benefits.
Remember, they need to know both the what (policy) and the how (procedure). Your corporate policy, for instance, might provide five vacation days a year.
Your procedure should outline how employees request time off – whom do they ask, what online or paper request do they need to complete, and how far in advance do they put in the request for time off?
Also, you should clearly delineate need-to-know details, such as the frequency, duration, and limitations of time off, as well as whether it’s paid or unpaid.
And don’t leave employees guessing policy details such as what happens with unused vacation. (For example, is it use-it-or-lose-it or does it rollover?)
Finally, outline the consequences for not adhering to your corporate policies and procedures. Will employees face disciplinary action if they take off more than the allowable number of days in a month?
A written company policy makes expectations – and consequences – clear.
Equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies
Again, you might lump these into one corporate policy, as they all address nuanced versions of inclusion. Or you can create a separate company policy for each area.
Regardless of your corporate policy structure, spell out how you comply with the law. Most countries mandate being an equal opportunity employer.
In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will enforce laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. These laws are designed to promote equal opportunity in the workplace – fair treatment regardless of your background.
But you should do more than just follow the letter of the law. You should strive to foster a workplace that values individuals for who they are.
Besides creating an inclusive work environment, your business benefits as well. In fact, research shows that “companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.” An inclusive workforce also allows you to tap into a larger pool of candidates when hiring.
Diversity helps to offer a variety of perspectives and boosts group decision-making.
You might consider establishing a company policy that goes beyond federal law requirements. Your corporate policies speak volumes about your company’s values, so it pays to outline your stance on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
The key is to create a policy that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Employees want to feel comfortable in their own skin at work without fear of judgment.
A solid diversity training program can go a long way in teaching cultural awareness and explaining how to treat people of different backgrounds respectfully.
You want your employees to feel safe while doing their jobs. Look to relevant local, state, and federal laws to guide your workplace safety policies and procedures.
Thus, should outline what safe workplace behavior looks like, how to maintain a safe work environment, how to use safety equipment, and what to do in an emergency.
For example, you might require workers to immediately report on-the-job accidents and injuries. Depending on your business and industry, you might need to follow Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations, especially if certain workplace hazards exist at your company.
Alcohol, drug-free workplace, smoking, cannabis policies
Another common corporate policy to have prohibits substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products. Some companies don’t allow them onsite at all, during business hours, or even during business events.
How will you treat employees who smoke or vape? Will you designate a completely smoke-free workplace (including the exterior grounds) or implement a no-smoking policy only inside your building?
What will your company policy be if you’re in a state where marijuana is now legal? How will you handle incidents involving alcohol at company functions? These are all questions your company policy should address.
When employees see wrongdoing within your company (such as stealing, lying, or fraud), they should be able to report it without getting in trouble. How will your business handle this whistleblower?
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “whistleblower protections are provided in two important areas – confidentiality and against retaliation.”
The whistleblower policy should outline the steps employees should take to report such an incident and the appropriate person in management employees should tell.
Employees should be able to share this information in a confidential setting and, if possible, without their identity being disclosed to other parties. Whistleblowers should also know that your company will not retaliate against them (i.e., demote them, fire them, cut their pay) if they bring to light any company wrongdoing.
Workplace harassment shouldn’t be ignored, as it creates an unsafe and unproductive work environment. Plus, it puts your business at risk of legal actions and scandals that could ruin your hard-won reputation.
Having a company policy in place sets the tone for employees that you won’t tolerate harassment in your organization.
It should outline both appropriate and inappropriate behavior and clearly explain the ramifications of not adhering to your policy.
Again, a good training program goes a long way in communicating how to handle this delicate topic in a way that fosters a professional, respectful work environment.
Employees deserve a right to privacy, but this can be a tricky issue, especially where technology is concerned.
It might also cover your employees’ right to privacy in voicemail messages and phone conversations, as well as their personal items such as a briefcase, backpack, or purse. Using technology at work, however, is another story.
Company emails and internet usage, for example, might be monitored.
Employees sometimes introduce risks and vulnerabilities into your company, often unintentionally.
But when you create a cybersecurity policy, you’ll equip them with the knowledge they need to help reduce the risks introduced by human error. Outline policies and procedures that address common issues such as phishing attacks, insufficient password security, and poor access controls around sensitive information.
Acceptable use policy
To ensure your employees (and visitors) don’t misuse company computers or the internet, you need an up-to-date acceptable use policy (AUP).
It should outline how people can use a website, network, or internet service.
For example, it might prohibit uploading or downloading certain types of files, or harassing others via company email, or leaking insider information.
Social media policy
Employees might want to share their workday moments on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
But should they?
Your policy should address whether your company prohibits accessing social media during work hours as well as what company information employees should and should not share online.
Bring your own device (BYOD) policy
Between cell phones, tablets, computers, and other electronic devices, our wired world means employees might bring their own device to work.
By creating a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, you provide ground rules for how and when employees can use their own technology to conduct company business and access company information.
What happens when employees break a rule or disregard a policy? A disciplinary policy should clearly outline what circumstances warrant an employee being disciplined (such as lying, safety issues or misconduct) as well as what disciplinary actions will be taken.
Creating a standardized process for handling employee problems provides you with a consistent approach for handling both serious and minor offenses. It also communicates to employees what your company will and will not tolerate.
You might need to seek legal advice to ensure your disciplinary policies and procedures are fair, appropriate, and legal.
Implementing and Tracking Policies and Procedures
Writing corporate policies and procedures is only part of the equation. How do you store, distribute, and track all these crucial documents – especially since some policies will have legal implications?
A policy management software like PowerDMS can help solve the problem.
It enables you to quickly and easily distribute the newly created policies to all employees, ensuring they have their own copy on file. Then take time to meet individually or in small groups (perhaps by department), allowing a chance for review and questions.
Finally, ask employees to sign off that they’ve received the new company policies and that they understand the expectations.
The reality of effective policy management is that it can be a hassle to stay on top of it all. Using our policy management software streamlines the process, saving you time, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks, and providing consistent communication.
Our automated alerts notify employees when they need to sign a policy or when it’s been revised. And our robust tracking takes the guesswork out of wondering if a policy has been signed. Plus, our software connects policies to relevant training, standards, and forms.
Using a policy management software allows you to focus on the big picture – fostering a safe, enjoyable environment where people want to show up for work every day. And it leaves the time-consuming, nitty-gritty implementation and tracking details to a robust solution that serves as your automation partner.
With effective corporate policies and procedures in place, you can rest assured knowing you’ve followed best practices in protecting both your workers’ rights and your company’s interests.