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August 15, 2013

Don’t Confuse Policies with Procedures

Good policy and procedure documents clearly differentiate between the two; however, when policy statements and procedures are intermingled in the same section, readers become confused. It is difficult to follow a procedure if policy statements are intermingled with the steps that need to be taken.

Policy statements are information documents; they answer what and why.

  • Use clear, concise, simple language.
  • State what the policy is and why your organization has chosen it.
  • Provide context and reasons for the policy.
  • State who owns the policy and where employees can get more information about it.
  • Set and use a consistent template that uses the same format for all policies.

Procedures are strictly instructional documents. Their purpose is to explain how to perform a task. Good procedures:

  • Are understandable and easy to follow.
  • Must be useful and practical.
  • Are developed with the end user in mind.
  • State who owns the procedure and where employees can get questions answered.
  • Clearly identify who should perform the procedure and what approvals or authorizations are needed.
  • Provide links to required forms and additional information.

For example, a policy about a company’s compensation scheme would include information about the salary structure, what role benefits pay in compensation, what types of compensation are provided, why the company has this policy, eligibility requirements, etc. Compensation procedures would be comprised of sets of instructions about how to process different forms of compensation, such as regular pay, vacation pay, contributions to benefit plans, etc.

When you have well-written, organized policies and procedures, employees can be more positively productive and activities can be accomplished more quickly with fewer errors.


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