How to Create a Policy and Procedure Manual: A Complete Guide

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Written By: author image Colin Newcomer
how to create a policy and procedure manual

Not sure how to create a policy and procedure manual, or if your business even needs one in the first place?

A policy and procedure manual is a centralized hub where employees can access key information about your business.

As your business expands, documenting these policies and procedures is essential to optimize your processes, care for your employees, protect your business, ensure compliance with government regulations, and more.

In this guide, you’re going to learn everything that you need to know about how to create a policy and procedure manual, including the following:

  • What is a policy and procedure manual?
  • Policy and procedure manual examples
  • Why it’s important to have a policy and procedure manual
  • How to create a policy and procedure manual

Let’s dig in…

What Is a Policy and Procedure Manual?

A policy and procedure manual is a centralized knowledge hub where employees can access information on your business’ policies and procedures, such as how to perform certain tasks (“procedures”) and rules and regulations (“policies”).

Some examples could be details on the hiring process for managers who need to hire new employees, sick leave policy, employee benefits, and so on. We’ll share more policy and procedure manual examples in a second.

Such a centralized knowledge hub helps your employees access key information when needed, which helps your business work more effectively.

It also ensures that all of your employees are operating on the same page and fully understand the procedures and policies of your business.

Policy and Procedure Manual Examples

To help you understand what a policy and procedure manual is and what types of content you should include in yours, let’s go over a rapid rundown of some policy and procedure manual examples that you should consider including:

  • Workplace code of conduct
  • Employee benefits information
  • Health and safety procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • Leave policy
  • Vacation policy
  • Remote work policy
  • Organizational chart
  • Business travel policies (e.g. per diem, etc.)
  • HR policies
  • Payment procedures
  • Employee procedures for key tasks (e.g. submitting a vacation leave request)
  • Job descriptions
  • Promotion information (if standardized, such as different levels)
  • Legal compliance rules (e.g. rules for employees investing in stock)
  • Stock option information and vesting periods
  • Technology usage policies
  • Information security policies
  • Continuing education policies

For a real-life example, you can consider the Information Security Policy from Notre Dame, which helps “protect Notre Dame’s information resources from accidental or intentional unauthorized access…”

An example of an information security policy

Your business might have unique policies and procedures, so this is by no means a complete list of all the content you should include in a policy and procedure manual. However, it should give you a good idea of where to start.

Why It’s Important to Have a Policy and Procedure Manual

Now that you know what a policy and procedure manual is, let’s go over some of the biggest benefits of creating one for your business.

Reduce Employee Training Time

Whenever you hire a new employee, there’s always a lag time between when they start working and when they start actually contributing to your business.

You need to help them understand key policies, how they’ll be working, what they’ll be working on, and so on.

With a policy and procedure manual, you can reduce employee training time when it comes to all of the general procedural tasks in your business.

That way, new employees can focus on training for their actual work tasks, which will help them start adding value faster.

Help Employees Understand Their Benefits (and Boost Retention)

Most businesses offer employee benefits to help boost retention and improve employee morale.

However, if employees don’t know how to access those benefits (or if those benefits even exist), your business won’t achieve the benefit of offering those benefits.

With a policy and procedure manual, you can clearly document all of your business’s employee benefits so that:

  1. Employees know what benefits exist.
  2. Employees know how they can access those benefits.

Improve Compliance With Rules and Regulations

In addition to your own business policies, your business will also likely need to comply with government rules and regulations, such as the rules around insider trading.

For some businesses, the consequences of not following these rules could be substantial in the form of fines or other penalties.

With your policy and procedure manual, you can specify what employees need to do to maintain compliance with these rules. By clearly laying out this information (and making it easy for employees to access), you can avoid unintentional mishaps and improve your compliance with those governmental rules.

For an example of this, you can see Shake Shack’s insider trading compliance policy:

An example of an insider trading compliance policy

Set Proper Expectations for Employee Conduct

If you want to avoid issues with employee conduct, it’s much easier to set expectations from the beginning than to try to adjust behavior later on.

With a policy and procedure manual, you can set proper expectations for employee conduct and culture right from the beginning to avoid issues in the future.

Standardize Your Business’s Processes and Protect Against Issues

Another big benefit of a policies and procedures manual is that it helps you standardize your business’s policies – as the name suggests!

By standardizing policies as much as possible, you can improve your efficiency and streamline the administrative work of your business.

You can also help protect against issues, such as using your information security policy to protect your business from a malicious actor accessing your data.

Reduce the Burden on HR By Letting Employees Help Themselves

Your business will almost certainly have a lot of very specific policies around HR-related tasks such as payments, sick leave, vacation leave, benefits, retirement options, and so on.

If employees feel the need to reach out to your HR staff every time that they have a question, your HR staff will be bogged down by needing to answer these questions instead of working on something more valuable.

By documenting all of these important policies and procedures in your manual, you can give employees the tools that they need to find the answers themselves. That means employees can get answers whenever they need them and your HR staff can focus on other stuff.

This operates on much the same principle of how creating a customer-facing knowledge base can help you cut down on human support requests by giving customers the tools to help themselves. If you’re interested in that topic, check out our post with seven big knowledge base benefits.

How to Create a Policy and Procedure Manual

Now, let’s get into the actual steps for how to create a policy and procedure manual, from start to finish.

1. Plan Your Policy and Procedure Manual

Before you start writing and documenting, it’s important to have a high-level plan and structure for your manual.

This will let you know what content you need to write and how to best structure that content into a cohesive manual.

If you’re not sure where to get started, the policy and procedure manual examples from above make a good foundation.

Your business also might have its own policies and procedures that need to be documented in your manual.

Beyond just listing individual policies and procedures, you’ll also want to think about how you can group them together in logical categories. For example, individual employee benefits policies could be grouped into one overarching “Employee Benefits” category.

This type of grouping will make it easier for employees to browse and navigate your manual. 

With the right policy and procedure manual software, you should have no problem setting up this type of categorization.

2. Create a Team to Write Your Content

Once you’ve mapped out your policy and procedure manual, you need to assemble a team of experts who are able to create this content.

Because your policies and procedures will likely span different departments, your team will need to as well.

Your main goal is to get subject matter experts for all the important policies and procedures that you need to document.

This step can also be a good spot to go back and check if you missed anything in your plan. Your team of experts might have their own feedback on new policies that should be added or changes to the structure of your manual.

3. Write Your Policy and Procedure Content

Now, you’re ready to start writing. Your team should know what needs to be done and they can start creating that content based on your plan.

Here are a few policy and procedure manual best practices to consider when writing your documentation:

  • Include images and videos where it makes sense – images and videos can be useful for explaining things in more detail, especially when it comes to procedures that employees need to follow.
  • Use formatting to draw attention to key areas – use callouts to highlight important information, emphasize warnings, and so on. Most policy and procedure manual software should let you do this.
  • Avoid jargon – many articles will need to be accessible to employees of different specialties/knowledge levels, which means you should avoid topic-specific jargon whenever possible.
  • Include a table of contents – adding a table of contents makes it easier for employees to navigate content. Some policy and procedure manual software can help you do this automatically.
  • Use short paragraphs and bullet points – this makes it easier for employees to absorb and understand your content.

4. Review and Approve Your Policy and Procedure Content

Once you’ve written the first drafts of your policy and procedure content, you’ll want to have that content reviewed by a separate subject matter expert.

This review process can help you catch errors and inconsistencies before you publish your content.

It’s also just generally never a bad idea to have a second set of eyeballs on content when it comes to the structure and writing quality.

Ideally, you’ll want to have a system in place so that reviewers can sign off on each piece of content before it ever gets published in your manual.

Speaking of…

5. Publish Your Policy and Procedure Manual

To make your manual easy to access, you should use policy and procedure manual software that lets your employees easily access your policies at any time.

For most businesses, you can use regular knowledge base software or documentation software, as long as it includes features to help you restrict access to your manual.

If you’re not sure where to get started, Heroic Knowledge Base offers a flexible, cost-effective way to create a policy and procedure manual.

Heroic Knowledge Base is based on the open-source WordPress software, which means that you can also benefit from all the flexibility that WordPress offers.

The Heroic Knowledge Base WordPress plugin

This combination offers several different ways to restrict access to your policy and procedure manual:

  • Require users to register for accounts and log in using a username and password – this lets employees access the manual from anywhere, while still keeping things very secure.
  • Create a single password that you can share with employees – this isn’t as secure because anyone with the password can access the content, but it’s very easy to set up because employees don’t need their own accounts.
  • Allow access based on IP address – this can be a good option if employees work remotely but still use a company-provided VPN.
  • Create an intranet site so that employees can only access content from your local networkan intranet site can be a good option if employees only need to access content while at work.

Heroic Knowledge Base is also packed with features to help you create a more effective policy manual:

  • Categories – easily organize your policies and procedures into categories and let employees browse those categories.
  • Live search suggestions – employees can see search results as soon as they start typing, which helps them more quickly find the right document.
  • Built-in callout styles – you can use pre-defined callouts to easily add warnings and highlights to your content.
  • Article feedback – employees can provide feedback on articles to help you spot issues and improve your manual.
  • Search analytics – you can see what employees are searching for to find weak/missing areas in your policy documentation.
  • File uploads – this lets you attach PDF versions of policies or other types of files.

If you want some help getting started, we have a guide on how to set up Heroic Knowledge Base.

6. Share Your Policy and Procedure Manual With Employees (and Collect Feedback)

Once you’ve published your policy and procedure manual, you’re ready to share it with your employees.

If everything goes well, your job is finished…for now.

However, it’s also important to listen to employee feedback after you launch your manual.

Employees might have comments or issues that you didn’t think of. If you want to create the best manual possible, you’ll want to factor these comments into your revisions.

Speaking of revisions…

7. Assign Key Stakeholders to Update and Revise

Your policy and procedure manual content is not static information that you can set and forget.

Over time, your policies and procedures might change, and those changes will need to be reflected in your manual.

Or, even if nothing changes, you might realize that a certain article isn’t as clear as you’d like it to be. In such cases, you should improve the article to make it more useful to your employees.

To help make this happen, assign articles to key stakeholders so that someone has clear responsibility. In many cases, you can assign the article to the same person who wrote it.

If you use a tool like Heroic Knowledge Base to create your manual, it can also help alert you to potential issues by letting your employees flag articles and provide feedback.

Create Your Policy and Procedure Manual Today

That wraps up our guide to everything you need to know about creating a policies and procedures manual.

If you’re looking for the best way to publish and manage your policy and procedure manual, you can use the open-source Heroic Knowledge Base WordPress plugin.

Heroic Knowledge Base is flexible enough to adapt to any business, while still giving you access to useful features such as article feedback, real-time search suggestions, search analytics, file uploads, and lots more.

Plus, thanks to the flexibility of Heroic Knowledge Base’s WordPress foundation, you get tons of options for controlling access to your policy and procedure manual, including using an intranet, requiring user accounts, and more.

To get started, purchase Heroic Knowledge Base today.

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