We all love a good recipe, tried and trusted, everybody can use it and it works every time. Imagine if your policies and procedure manual met the same acclaim. How good would that be! The policy and procedure manual is just like you family favourite cookbook. You know exactly what is in there, its clear and succinct, everybody sings its praises, you check some recipes in there and many you know by heart. Whilst allied health business owners are increasingly aware of the need for such manuals I am frequently asked about the structure and content and how to write them. How to use them for compliance, wrapping over quality assurance… well, that is another blog. Super questions, huge questions, but let’s give each one some high-level thinking to help you get started.
Suggested structure. There are many ways to be right in regards to what’s included and how it is organised. My preference, based on experience only, is to divide the content into chapters, have subheadings and loads of numbered steps. The chapter headings may include Administration, HR, Workplace Health and Safety, Therapy Services, Finance, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Compliance. I recommend to all my coaching clients that they purchase the HR and WHS chapters as it is incredibly important to get these sections correct and aligned with relevant awards. Here is a great product! (affiliate link)
As a team, list everything you do. Investing time, lots of time in mapping ‘all the things’ everybody in your business does on a daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, term, and annual basis will generate a long list. This is where you engage the entire team to lists all their tasks, receptionist, bookkeeper, practice manager, therapists, accountant, allied health assistant, virtual assistant and most importantly you the business owner. Heads up, this will result in hundreds of line item tasks, which is perfect, you need to capture it all. My preference is that this is a pen and paper exercise, I like to be able to glance a lot of visual info quickly, small screens don’t do this for me. With lists in place grab the highlighter pen and strike through and number in priority order the top ten policies and procedures to write up first. Book a time in your diary to write the first one.
But where to start with the words?
A policy is an overarching statement about the standards you uphold. It is the benchmark that your team must meet.
It is a way to standardise your key business activities and ensure that the entire team are working consistently.
A procedure is the process by which your team will achieve the identified standard policy. Here you list the steps you take as a business owner to implement and achieve the policy. You may need to attach additional documents or provide links out to relevant agencies.
Embrace human centred design. As Allied Health professionals, we are good at this, we perhaps don’t know it. Take the position of being a client of your business, map the entire customer experience from their viewpoint. What did they experience looking at your website, receiving a flyer from the doctor, during the first phone call, completing documents, meeting with the therapists for the first session, during the goal setting and service design process, how was therapy and progress received… right through to when the client left your service. The client lifecycle is a powerful way to check the touch points of your policies and procedures. Similarly, you can analyze the employee lifecycle experience and all the opportunities they engage with tasks, documents, policies and procedures. I find it interesting to cut the view a different way and explore how relevant and effective your business recipes are for all concerned. Food for thought.
Recruit the team to design and develop your business recipes. If you write up a template with the policy clearly stated at the top and strong guidelines for how to list the procedural steps – then – who can you delegate to write up specific policies? There is a good chance that your administration / reception / book keeper / accountant team mates know more about some tasks than you do! During a team meeting work through specific aspects of clinical services the delegate the write up, remember to provide a due date.
Take a little and often approach. In the busyness of business writing, one policy and procedure per week is usually better than writing up ten during the school holidays. This provides the chance for team discussion which supports compliance in the long term. Whilst templates are available you will still need to spend considerable time adjusting them to the way you do things in your business.
With the reality of the new Quality and Safeguard Commission verification and certification process ahead now is the time map and create all your business recipes. They will provide only part of the documentation you will require but you will always need strong policies and procedures for business safety, growth, quality and efficiency. Rest assured many businesses are starting from scratch.