Cheat Sheet: 7 Tips for Handbook Updates

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

Feeling hesitant about taking the handbook updating plunge? We know it’s hard. Before diving head-first into our complete How to Write Policies and Procedures guide, test the waters with these top tips for writing policies and procedures.

  1. Work smart before you start. It‘s tempting to let things shake out as you go, but as they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Invest time in the planning stages. What’s your objective and criteria for success? Who’s on your team? When are you going to launch? By knowing the project’s scope early, you’ll be better positioned to identify helpful teammates, potential roadblocks, and how to execute your plan to your stakeholders’ delight.

  2. Mull over your medium. Early on, decide whether you’ll distribute your handbook via print, electronic document (PDF), or policy management software. Not only will this inform your distribution and launch process, it may change how you write your content. For example, if you’re doing what all the cool kids are doing (using software), you may be able to include images or video, read-more buttons, or personalized content. Know before you go!

  3. Find value in viewpoints. Though it’s best to keep your core team small, consider different perspectives as value-adds rather than hindrances. Marketing can provide branding ideas or culture content, IT can advise on software and security issues, and attorneys can identify areas in need of legal attention. Take advantage of the resources around you.

  4. Accommodate your audience. It’s easy to get caught up in what you need to communicate, but it’s imperative that your audience comprehends it, too. Your policies and procedures should also tell employees the value of the policy. Does it enhance workplace safety or promote work-life balance? Include the ultimate benefit to employees (i.e. what’s in it for them).

  5. Eliminate ambiguity. Articulate your policies as distinctly as possible. Words like “may” or “should” imply that something is optional, whereas “must” and “are required to” eliminate uncertainty. If policies only apply to a segment of your employees, make sure this is clearly identifiable. Make compliance easy.

  6. Embrace the design phase. Design isn’t just one more thing holding you back from launch; instead, it can add life to your text. For example, a procedure can be made more appealing if graphics illustrate each step of the process. Call-out boxes can guide readers to important takeaways. Get pretty with it!

  7. Communicate and celebrate. As you’re working toward a final product, don’t forget your communication plan. Minor, non-controversial updates can often be launched without much fanfare, but significant changes warrant more strategic conversation and potentially, sign off by employees. If this is the case, link your communication with an existing event or channel where you know employees will be paying attention.

If you still have the handbook heebie-jeebies, that’s okay. You can read the complete guide to writing policies when you’re ready; in the meantime, we’re here if you want to talk about it. Plop down on our figurative couch!

Drew Dotson

Drew Dotson

Drew enjoys eating cheese, cuddling with dogs, doing puzzles, and watching sports. She is passionate about raising awareness (and funds) for cystic fibrosis.

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