In your company, your procedures are the backbone of every workday, dictating to your employees how to carry out tasks and processes correctly and safely. They’re the how-to guide: instructional, step-by-step and focused on action. It’s the responsibility of every procedure writer to communicate this information concisely, clearly and in an engaging way.
Depending on the subject matter, the job of procedure writing can become rather complex. Simply using words doesn’t always communicate the details of the procedure in an easily digestible way. If your employees find your procedures difficult to follow or fail to communicate the most important information, that can lead to obvious problems for the company. Employees will be less compliant and less safe, and your company will operate less efficiently.
When a procedure is written well, the efficiency and success of your company will lay with the systems you have in place rather than the people who know the work. But, writing a procedure that is brief, readable and accurate is not always easy. They can take many different formats and shapes – whatever will get the job done – and a procedure writer should be familiar with a variety of alternative ways to successfully deliver the information in procedures.
When Words Aren’t Enough, Consider These Formats
Flowcharts show a process in a diagram, allowing a procedure writer to visualize the steps employees need to take to complete a process. This presentation method is an ideal option for tasks or processes that have complicated or repetitive steps. It eliminates all the extra visual clutter and allows employees to quickly glance at an overview of all the steps. Flowcharts also help to break up procedures into smaller, more manageable actions.
Action is typically indicated by arrows or other symbols in the diagram. To keep it clean and easily interpreted, procedure writers should avoid using too many unfamiliar symbols or too many words – flowcharts are not the place for long-winded explanations. Keep the presentation organized and following a logical order.
Flowcharts can be very versatile. By using multiple “lanes” of activity, you can illustrate procedures that require tasks completed by multiple people. For processes that follow paths with more variability, decision trees are similar structurally to flowcharts and make employees a more active participant in outlining the step-by-step process.
When more than one person is involved in a process, creating a script is an easy way to help everyone understand their roles and responsibilities. These can look a lot like play scripts, except it’s your employees instead of characters in a story. For instance, the procedure for writing a policy at your company could involve policy writers, policy editors and stakeholders, and sometimes optional roles such as policy translators or collaborators. With a script, a procedure writer can easily outline what each staff member needs to do. Policy writers gather the information and write the policy, editors check for errors and stakeholders give final approval and suggestions for improvement.
Alternately, scripts can be used to outline procedures that include an interaction of some kind, such as sales processes. When scripts are used in this manner for procedures though, procedure writers need to be acutely aware of the need for nuance in interactions.
This format for a procedure looks a lot like a FAQ. Essentially, you match questions your employees typically have about the procedure with the answers. This format is usually more suited for procedures with fewer steps involved. By using a question and answer format, procedure writers avoid an info-dump of details that are difficult to parse through for employees. In this format, they quickly locate the question they have and the answer is right there.
Because the Q&A format is great for addressing the “what if” scenarios of any procedure, this format also works well in conjunction with other procedure formats.
A matrix table is a table that expands both horizontally and vertically, connecting two metrics. The rows in the table represent one metric such as staff members, and the columns represent another metric such as shift duties. Where the rows and columns intersect, the staff members can find what duties they’re responsible for completing.
Matrix tables are great for looking up information quickly and can be used in a variety of ways. They are ideal for procedures with a lot of specific details that need to be easily referenced for a given situation. Employees won’t need to waste time looking through long documents or bullet points for the item they need; matrix tables make it easy.
Timelines are great at visualizing a series of cause and effect relationships that happen over a period of time. For procedures that outline processes that can span several days to months, timelines are a much better way to show the evolution of the process than a simple word document. Employees can quickly reference a timeline to see where they are in the process and when they need to fulfill the next step.
Make the Job of a Procedure Writer Easier with P&P Creation Software
Writing a successful procedure that actually benefits the company takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. There are many ways to communicate information to employees; the job of a procedure writer is to find the best way.
No matter how you create your procedures and policies, though, the process will always benefit from a policy and procedure creation software such as TotalCompliance from ComplianceBridge. At each stage, TotalCompliance has the tools to streamline and automate the process. Create, approve, distribute and track procedures and policies all on one platform.
At the creation stage, it offers a rich templating system for stakeholders to collaborate on a central version of each document and revise it when necessary. Collaborative tools include version control, messaging, reminders and notifications to help approval move along smoothly. TotalCompliance also manages distribution of new procedures and policies, and automated notifications increase uptake. You’ll have records of who has read, tested and acknowledged them, too.
To improve comprehension, TotalCompliance also allows you to test your employees on new material. It has over a dozen test metrics you can use to configure your comprehension exams, and you can see and manage the results yourself to assist you in smarter creation of procedures and policies in the future.
If procedures truly are the backbone of any workday, you want to make sure they have all the support they can get. Request a demo with ComplianceBridge today and learn how this software can improve your policy and procedure management process.