The Secret to Writing Strong Policies & Procedures

Everyone who has a driver’s license knows how to drive a car. We know what pedal makes the car move and which one makes the car stop. We know which way to turn the steering wheel to make the car go to the left and which way to turn the wheel steering wheel to make the car go to the right.

But while we all know how to drive a car, how we actually go about doing it is different from driver to driver. Some of us may hit the gas harder or softer than others. Some may hit the brakes harder or softer than others. Some of us may have different ways of making turns or changing lanes, or what we do when we get into a car and start it up.

Driving is a good analogy for describing the operations inside collection and recovery operations. While companies all have the same goal of collecting on unpaid debts, the processes that are used inside each operation will be different. But, just like driving, it’s important for companies to make sure that employees are following the proper steps to make sure that nobody gets into an accident.

Inside a collection operation, that responsibility falls to a company’s policies, procedures, and work statements — documents that details how just about everything of any importance should be done. During a recent webinar — sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning — a panel of experts discussed the differences between the types of documents.

A good first step toward writing policies, procedures, and work statements is creating a worksheet or document that lays out what is being done and who is responsible for doing it, said Sara Woggerman, the owner and president of ARM Compliance Business Solutions. The document provides an outline of what is happening and will make it more likely to recognize gaps, Woggerman said during the webinar.

Ultimately, there is some flexibility regarding what kind of instruction goes into which type of document — policy, procedure, or work statement — because what matters most is that the specific steps are written down somewhere, the panelists agreed. It is important to remember, though, that documents like policies and procedures are documents that can be subpoenaed and are discoverable during litigation proceedings. Work instructions tend not to get pulled into litigation, Woggerman noted, so it might make sense for companies to include their most granular detailed steps in those documents rather than in policies and procedures.

Among the most common mistakes that companies make when it comes to their policies, procedures, and work statements is a question of extremes — either going into too much detail or not enough detail. “It’s an art form,” Woggerman said. “There’s a happy medium here. It’s kind of like, if I were to ask you to write take meeting minutes, there’s an art form to this too.”

One thing that operations might find helpful is that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel — no matter what needs to be done, chances are someone has already done it. Networking with peers, following the “copy and steal everything” method, or straight up using the Internet can yield access to documents that help companies get some, most, or all the way to where they want to be. “Somebody out there has already went through the struggle of writing a policy and you can get a copy of it and take from it what will help you and then go from there,” said LaDonna Bohling from Contract Callers. “So use your network and your peers out there to help you with this.”

Bohling also recommended including screenshots in documents as a means of helping people visually understand what is being described.

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