A Comprehensive Guide to Procedure Manuals (With Tips)

Updated June 24, 2022

As your company grows, it becomes increasingly important to have well-established procedures, guidelines and rules. Creating a thorough policy and procedure manual can help you manage your employees, streamline processes and scale your business. In this article, we explain what a procedure manual is, detail the various elements that you should include in one, list the steps you should take when creating policies and explore the benefits of having a well-developed procedure manual.

Related: Creating an Employee Handbook

What is a procedure manual?

A procedure manual, also known as a policy and procedure manual, is a resource for employees that establishes guidelines and protocols for all the major principles, actions and decisions of a department or organization. It can outline the procedures and expectations for things like dress codes, hiring practices and even payroll. By creating a procedure manual with clear and descriptive policies and standards, you can improve the effectiveness, efficiency and communication of your organization.

In order to create procedure manuals that are more accessible, many organizations have started using cloud-based systems, online resources or knowledge management software. These systems make it easier for employees to access and organizations to update procedure manuals. Additionally, they allow organizations to provide links to relevant resources.

Related: How To Create a Standard Operating Procedure Template (Plus Tips)

Elements of a procedure manual

Procedure manuals can vary based on the industry and organization, but they typically review several key elements, such as:

  • Organization culture

  • Employment procedures

  • Employee benefits

  • Work-from-home policies

  • Communication policies

  • Workplace guidelines

  • Payment procedures

  • Employee code of conduct

  • Protocols for technology usage

Related: What To Include in an Employee Handbook

How to write a procedure manual

You can follow these simple steps to create a thorough procedure manual for your organization:

  1. Create a title. The title for your procedure manual should be clear and concise, making it accessible and understandable for individuals at any reading level.

  2. Provide an introduction. Your introduction should orient the reader by creating an overview of the information provided in the manual.

  3. Explain the purpose of the policies and procedures. Providing readers with the reasoning for a policy can help them understand its importance and invest in upholding it. A policy could exist for a number of reasons, such as to avoid a conflict, satisfy regulatory obligations or to meet legal requirements.

  4. Outline each policy's conditions. The conditions for a procedure or policy include details like who the primary audience is and any exclusions, expectations or restrictions that relate to the policy or how you should apply it. In most cases, this is the most important and detailed part of the procedure manual.

  5. Establish the procedure manual's scope. A policy and procedure manual can contain policies that are only relevant for certain departments or roles. That's why it's important that you identify the parties that a policy pertains to and specific positions or teams that are exempt from it.

  6. Delegate responsibilities. Though the information in a procedure manual can be useful for a wide range of employees, there should be specific roles, teams or departments that are responsible for maintaining each policy. You should include a section that lists which roles are in charge of implementing a procedure or policy.

  7. Detail the steps of each procedure. In order to ensure that employees understand how to implement a policy or procedure, you must include procedural steps that explain how to complete the outlined protocols.

  8. Mention relevant references. If a procedure or policy could benefit from additional reference materials, you should create a section that mentions them. This can include other relevant policies, guidelines, forms, procedures or regulatory documents.

  9. Include resources for additional information and help. A help section provides employees with approved resources where they can get clarification, answers to questions or help carrying out a specific procedure. Include a table that lists sources like telephone numbers, documentation, forms or access to training programs.

Related: How To Write Policies and Procedures

Benefits of having procedure manuals

Having a procedure manual offers a wide range of advantages for your employees and organization, such as it:

  • Sets clear expectations: A procedure manual provides a designated place for an organization's values, mission, standards and goals. It clearly defines expectations for employees regarding their performance and behavior, and it's easily accessible, so employees can reference back to it when they have a question.

  • Improves overall productivity: Since a well-developed procedure manual can be an authoritative resource for employees that provides answers to common questions, it can actually help employees follow business guidelines and expedite the decision-making process.

  • Enhances internal communication: Procedure manuals establish an organization's basic business operations, including modes of communication. As a result, this can reduce the likelihood of misinformation or gaps in the communication process.

  • Reduces employee training time: A policy and procedure manual can be a wonderful tool when training new employees or retraining current staff members. Since you already developed the materials, descriptive and thorough procedure manuals can simplify the onboarding process by reducing the effort and time it takes to train employees.

  • Ensures company compliance: When an organization consistently reviews and updates its procedure manual, it can help the company satisfy compliance requirements with the government. For example, when a company clearly outlines workplace safety and health policies, it enables employees to meet legal obligations and maintain a safe work environment.

Tips for crafting an effective procedure manual

Consider these tips before you start working on a procedure manual for your organization:

  • Make a list of your goals and priorities. Creating a procedure manual takes time, but you can help simplify the process by creating a list of the procedures and policies you want to include and then deciding which you should prioritize. Start with the most important ones, namely any policies that are mandated by federal or state laws. In many cases, these are pre-written policies that you can easily include in your policy and procedure manual.

  • Decide which policies need detailed instructions. Determining which procedures require a detailed outline can help you schedule your tasks more effectively.

  • Create a logical order. Make sure that your procedure manual is organized logically by addressing the broader issues first. For example, many organizations include an introduction to the company's values and goals first and then outline the employment eligibility policies and hiring procedures.

  • Update the manual frequently. A procedure manual is a significant company document that you should constantly revisit and revise. You can add amendments, remove certain details and change policies or procedures altogether.


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