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Policies and Procedures in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide

Developing and enforcing strong policies and procedures improves workplace culture and protects your organization from potential lawsuits.

Posted by Ann Snook on June 7th, 2019

According to a study by Covestro, 71 per cent of executives say employees’ desire for purpose is “prompting HR to rethink certain work policies such as paid time-off for volunteer or community work, flextime and/or telecommuting.” 

Organizations need to develop policies and procedures that reflect their vision, values and culture as well as the needs of their employees. Once they are in place, enforcing these guidelines is even more important. However, accomplishing these goals can be tougher than it sounds.


Without proper policies and procedures in place, you may experience more workplace issues. Learn how to manage Human Resources investigations effectively in our free eBook.



What are Policies and Procedures?


Policies and procedures go hand-in-hand but are not interchangeable.

policy is a set of general guidelines that outline the organization’s plan for tackling an issue. Policies communicate the connection between the organization’s vision and values and its day-to-day operations.

procedure explains a specific action plan for carrying out a policy. Procedures tells employees how to deal with a situation and when.

Using policies and procedures together gives employees a well-rounded view of their workplace. They know the type of culture that the organization is striving for, what behavior is expected of them and how to achieve both of these.


RELATED: Employee Handbook Updates for 2019


The Importance of Policies and Procedures


Regardless of your organization’s size, developing formal policies and procedures can make it run much more smoothly and efficiently. They communicate the values and vision of the organization, ensuring employees understand exactly what is expected of them in certain situations.

Because both individual and team responsibilities are clearly documented, there is no need for trial-and-error or micromanaging. Upon reading the workplace policies and procedures, employees should clearly understand how to approach their jobs.

Formal policies and procedures save time and stress when handling HR issues. The absence of written policies results in unnecessary time and effort spent trying to agree on a course of action. With strict guidelines already in place, employees simply have to follow the procedures and managers just have to enforce the policies.

Implementing these documents also improves the way an organization looks from the outside. Formal policies and procedures help to ensure your company complies with relevant regulations. They also demonstrate that organizations are efficient, professional and stable. This can lead to stronger business relationships and a better public reputation.

policies and procedures in the workplace

How to Develop Policies and Procedures in the Workplace


When creating a policy or procedure for your workplace, start by reviewing the mission statement, vision and values. According to the New South Wales Government Industrial Relations, “a workplace policy should:

  • set out the aim of the policy
  • explain why the policy was developed
  • list who the policy applies to
  • set out what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior
  • set out the consequences of not complying with the policy
  • provide a date when the policy was developed or updated”


Once you implement your policies and procedures, the next step is to inform and train employees on them. You can’t expect employees to follow guidelines if they aren’t aware of them. Be sure to schedule regular refresher training sessions, too, to keep employees on track.

Paychex WORX says that “employees may be more likely to embrace rules when they understand their purpose and that they are not meant to be a form of control or punishment.” For this reason, keep a positive attitude during training sessions and leave plenty of time for employee questions.

Policies and procedures should not be written once and left alone for decades. Reviewing these documents regularly and updating them when necessary is key to their success. In addition to an annual review, consider updating your policies and procedures when you:

  • adopt new equipment, software, etc.
  • see an increase in accidents or failures on-site
  • experience increased customer complaints
  • have a feeling of general confusion or increased staff questions regarding day-to-day operations
  • see inconsistency in employee job performance
  • feel increased stress levels across the office


Writing policies and procedures can be a tricky process. Streamline the process with our free policies and procedures template.


Types of Policies and Procedures Every Workplace Needs


Organizations need policies and procedures for a wide range of HR topics. Below are some of the subjects you should consider creating guidelines for.


Polices and Procedures for Attendance

These documents can include guidelines on tardiness, vacation time, sick leave, appointments and paid volunteer hours. You can also include the amount of notice required before booking time off. Take your corporate culture into consideration when developing these rules.


Policies and Procedures for Employee Conduct

This is a broad topic and may require multiple, separate policies. Including guidelines on drugs and alcohol use, smoking, performance management and discipline helps employees know what is and is not acceptable behavior at work.


Policies and Procedures for Use of Company Property

Employees have to use company property in order to do their jobs. Depending on your industry, this could include electronics, medical equipment, vehicles, tools and uniforms. Include guidelines on how to care for company property, as well as how much (if any) and what types of personal use are permitted using company property.


Policies and Procedures for Harassment and Discrimination

Harassment and discrimination affect workplace culture. Keep employees safe and treat them fairly by developing policies and procedures that prohibit behaviors such as:

  • sexual harassment
  • bullying
  • verbal and physical harassment
  • stalking
  • hiring discrimination
  • workplace discrimination

Include information on how to report harassment and discrimination and explain that the company will not retaliate for reporting.


Policies and Procedures for Internet and Social Media Use

Make employees aware that any internet use at work is not private. Urge employees to limit personal internet use and ensure everything they do online in the workplace is legal, ethical and appropriate (and explain what these mean). Add guidelines about what is and is not appropriate to post on social media regarding your organization as well.


Policies and Procedures for Health and Safety

Protecting employees’ safety and well-being should be every organization’s top priority. When writing your health and safety policies, include information about how to deal with illness or injury at work, equipment safety guidelines and how to report a health or safety concern. Also include procedures to follow in the event of a fire or natural disaster.


Policies and Procedures for Expenses

If your employees travel or purchase things for work, having an expense reimbursement policy in place is essential. Explain what types of expenses are acceptable for reimbursement (airfare class, transportation, meals, etc.). Include procedures on how to submit a reimbursement claim.


RELATED: Employee Policy Manuals: What to Include in Your Annual Review

Why You Need to Enforce Policies and Procedures


Policies and procedures are helpful for making your workplace run more efficiently, but they are only effective if you enforce them. Enforcement of the guidelines guarantees your organization’s operational procedures and decision-making processes are uniform and consistent across cases.

When you don’t enforce your procedures, you put your organization at risk. If an employee or external person comes forward with an allegation against your company, having formal policies and procedures in place strengthens your case.

For example, say someone sues your organization for hiring discrimination, claiming that they were not given a job they interviewed for because they have a disability. Having an anti-discrimination policy in place is a strong piece of evidence in your defense.

Or, say that you refuse to reimburse a first-class plane ticket an employee bought to get to a conference. Pointing out that first-class airfare is not eligible for expense reimbursement and having proof of this in your policy protects your organization from legal actions and reputation damage.

Without formal policies and procedures, your organization may not be reaching its potential. Developing and enforcing policies that reflect your workplace’s values make it a better environment for all employees.

Ann Snook
Ann Snook

Marketing Writer

Ann is a marketing writer at i-Sight Software. She writes about issues related to investigations of fraud, employee misconduct, corporate security, Title IX, ethics & compliance and more.

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