If you find yourself asking “How could we have prevented that?” on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that your practice policies and procedures need an update. Because whether you’re trying to deal with a client’s no-show for the second time in a row, or how to be consistent and fair with employees, it always comes down to having processes in place.
Think about it: when was the last time you encountered an issue in your business that couldn’t somehow be improved with enhanced policies and procedures?
It makes sense; when every aspect of your practice has been thought through and put into writing, you take out almost all of the guesswork for your team.
A well-drafted set of policies and procedures ensures that your practice rules, standards, values, culture, and obligations are clearly outlined, which empowers your team to make informed, consistent, strategic decisions.
What’s the Difference Between a Policy and a Procedure?
Practice operations manuals can receive a bad rap, sometimes for being long, difficult to understand, or out of date. However, a well-drafted set of practice policies and procedures can play an essential role in protecting your practice’s interests while promoting a positive workplace culture.
Policies and procedures go hand in hand but are not interchangeable.
A policy is a predetermined course of action. It establishes the guidelines for your practice’s strategies and objectives. It’s the link between a practice’s vision, values, and day-to-day operations.
A procedure explains a specific action plan for carrying out a policy. In plain terms, a procedure is a road map. Procedures eliminate common misunderstandings by identifying job responsibilities and establishing boundaries for those jobs.
So clearly, it’s important, but is having an operations manual necessary?
5 Reasons Why a Practice Operations Manual is Necessary
Using standardised policies and procedures gives practitioners and staff a well-rounded view of the practice, they know what you’re working towards as a practice, what is considered preferred behaviours and approaches, and how to achieve them.
Specifically, a practice operations manual is needed for:
1. Regulatory Compliance
Policies and procedures that are regularly reviewed and updated will assist your practice in meeting its legal obligations. For instance, a clear health and safety policy will assist a practice in communicating its obligations to provide a safe workplace and how it will meet them.
2. Enable Consistency
Policies and procedures help employees know what they’re responsible for, what’s expected of them, and what they can expect from co-workers. This also allows them to do their jobs with confidence and ease.
Policies and procedures within the operations manual set standards of behaviour, conduct and performance for employees. As a result, the operations manual provides a source of reference for practitioners and staff to be able to review and check if they are meeting those expectations.
3. Keep Management Accountable
In addition to setting standards for practitioners and staff, policies and procedures also set standards for managers of a practice.
This provides guidance to managers on how they are to conduct themselves and the standards they’ll be held to. It also provides transparency to the rest of the workforce as they can see the standards expected of their leaders.
4. Navigate Through Incidents
Up-to-date policies and procedures make it easier for an employer to defend themselves against legal claims. For instance, in the case of a report to a regulatory body regarding a staff member feeling bullied, demonstrating that a practice has a bullying policy and a grievance policy, both of which have been referenced by the practice when investigating the allegation of bullying, can be relied upon to demonstrate the reasonableness of a practice’s actions when responding to such a claim.
Policies and procedures can also prevent workplace incidents with the correct safety measures in place, or help ensure an appropriate response when an incident occurs.
5. Contribute Toward Continuous Practice Improvement
As practices evolve, internal processes can be challenging to follow. However, these are essential in ensuring consistency throughout the practice. Whether this is in the quality of your customer service or how you handle client privacy, your business reputation depends on consistency. Policies and procedures clarify internal processes, ensuring they are achieved and help employees provide value and consistency to clients.
The 11 Key Components
It’s clear that an operations manual is important but, what’s even more important, is that the manual covers the most important aspects of the practice- because it needs to be practical.
So, what should you include?
1. Important Contacts
What makes your practice unique, how do your clients find you, where can clients park, and are you conveniently located near public transport or other landmarks?
Who do employees contact if there is a power outage or need for building repairs? Including this information in your operations manual will assist staff on a daily basis as well as in a crisis.
2. Team Conduct
Communicate the practice’s core expectations for team members, including conduct expectations, disciplinary procedures, and leave policies.
3. Team Support & Development
Become an employer of choice. When you have clear guidelines for team support, including recruitment, onboarding, meetings and wellbeing, your staff and new recruits can see the value you place in them.
4. Health and Safety
Prevention of injury and having a safe and secure working environment are paramount. How can this be achieved? The practice’s operations manual will describe core expectations for health and safety, including the prevention of workplace injury and ensuring a safe and secure working environment.
Here’s where you describe how the practice’s security functions, including alarm management, computer security, and physical records management.
6. Confidentiality and Privacy
Your clients will demand and expect it, but how do practitioners and staff achieve it? You need clear policies and procedures describing core expectations for confidentiality and privacy, including client information management and the handling of third-party requests.
7. Customer Service
It’s important not to leave great customer service open to the interpretation of individual employees. You can ensure that your team knows exactly how to react when you have clear customer service policies.
8. Physical Environment
Here’s where you describe the practice’s core expectations for the physical environment, including cleaning, disinfection, general waste, and laundry.
9. Appointment Management
Do employees know the practice’s expectations regarding phone calls, faxes, banking, and other administrative tasks? Document your core expectations for administrative duties so there is no need for them to question whether they’re following the correct processes.
If your practice accepts Telehealth appointments, be sure to include policies and procedures for technology, risk management, and consent.
Successful practices see their operations manual as a necessary tool, not just a compliance requirement. They understand that these vital components set guidelines and parameters for how their practice operates and how employees can live the values of the practice. Without adequate and well-developed policies and procedures, there are no rules, and unfortunately, without defined rules, staff will create their own.
Need some help getting started?
All existing and new customers can now access Power Diary’s Practice Operations Manual which includes pre-written policy and procedure templates that can quickly and easily be adapted for your practice. You get the full pre-written documentation when you start a free trial with Power Diary!