How To Ensure Employees Follow Procedures—Without Babysitting Them
How can we ensure compliance with policies and procedures in the workplace?
Employees want the freedom to do their jobs without someone breathing down their necks. For some, it becomes burdensome when they have to follow policies and procedures every time, but it’s gotta be done.
As a manager, this is one great Herculean task. In a workplace where procedures haven’t been used before, it’s hard to introduce it.
Humans are naturally resistant to change.
Case in point: Just try moving to a new neighborhood from an old one you’ve lived in and loved for over ten years. You may feel awkward. You may feel excited but hesitant. You’ll probably shed a few tears. Change is hard!
And introducing a new method of working is hard! But if your company must grow and deliver results, then it’s what you must do. (Also, if you already have company policies that are often ignored by employees, then you need to find out the reason for the lack of compliance and adapt.)
It’s not as difficult as it may seem. Here are some simple ways to ensure employees follow policies and procedures without you babysitting them:
1. Write your procedures down.
Assumption (they say) is the lowest level of knowledge. And as humans, we can only recall so much. What this means is that just instructing your employees to follow verbal procedures is ineffective.
When Paula Baake, owner, and founder of Dancing Mind, wanted to systematize her company, she created a lot of procedures. Customers weren’t getting a consistent experience, employees were “winging it,” and resources were being wasted. She could have buckled down to do the tiresome work. Instead, she hired someone to take on the role of writing down procedures for every single task carried out—from welcoming customers into the studio to how to fold the face towels.
So, why do organizations have written policies and procedures?
If you can seem to pinpoint why employees don’t follow procedures, this may be the cause. When your procedures are written down in a way that’s easy to understand and implement, you automatically remove the opportunity for excuses.
If your procedures are perceived as extra work, employees won’t take them seriously.
2. Re-tell employees why procedures are necessary.
As you consider how to get employees to follow procedures, you may want to keep the following in mind.
If your procedures are perceived as “extra work,” employees won’t take them seriously. Give your employees a deeper reason to adhere to those procedures. Let them know why you have them in place and why it’s necessary to understand and adhere to policies and procedures.
For two or three days, Paula locked herself and a group of passionate team members in a room to nail down their values. Then when procedures were created, she helped her team realize that the purpose of the procedures was to help deliver the mission and the values they developed. Every single line in the procedures had a part to play in making the mission and values of Dancing Mind a reality.
When creating your own, you don’t necessarily have to go on a three-day lockdown, but make sure your employees understand the importance of organizational policies and procedures and their relationship to overall business success.
3. Make your procedures easily accessible.
Your employees have spent years and years of their lives reading thick books to pass exams. The last thing they want is another 300-page manual full of procedures and “things to do.” We’re in the digital age. You already use software to manage and engage your employees so instead of making them follow rules from another thick book, make your procedures are easily accessible to every employee—both online and offline.
When Tara Brouwer, CEO and Creative Strategist of Shovel Creative Inc., first created her procedures, she had a hard time ensuring her employees followed them.
Since she was already using Basecamp to manage client projects with her team, she simply made the procedures available there. This way, she didn’t have to babysit and instruct them to always have procedures open because they could access the procedures with just a click of the mouse.
Simply tell your employees what compliance with company policies means.
4. Reward compliance and guide stragglers.
Recognizing and rewarding correct behavior is a great motivator for employees. Don’t restrict your reward system only for times when employees meet certain results. You can reward them just for following the procedures. How? Checklists go hand-in-hand with procedures. With checklists, an employee can simply tick off a certain task in a procedure after it has been completed.
Tara Brouwer did this with her employees. Instead of always asking employees whether or not they followed the procedures, she simply viewed their checklists. An un-ticked step in a procedure showed what was happening. Checklists don’t lie. It’s clear who should be rewarded, and that will help direct others who aren’t as compliant. Perhaps those who are more compliant can even help coach the others!
And the consequences of not following policies and procedures should be crystal clear.
Procedures can be an important part of a successful company. Take a close look at your company. Could your people (and your company) be more successful by making procedures easily accessible and introducing checklists into the mix?
Helping your employees understand the relevance of the procedures to your overall goal and mission as a company will them take ownership of the business. You won’t have to breathe down their necks to ensure compliance with regulations.
It’s not babysitting. You should be creating a group of leaders who will run with your mission as if it were their own. When you do this, employees will be following policies and procedures acutely. Also, when your procedures are calculated steps towards your goal, and a group of people is passionately taking those steps, you’ll get results.