Business policies, processes, procedures and codes of practice

Business policies, processes, procedures and codes of practice can help you to:

  • improve how you manage internal operations
  • develop business efficiencies
  • work effectively with suppliers
  • make good decisions
  • manage staff and customer expectations
  • comply with legislative and regulatory obligations
  • train new employees better.

Key documents for business operations

Business policies, processes, and procedures will be key operational documents for your business.

Policies are the guidelines that are developed by the business to help govern how it functions.

For example:

  • workplace health and safety policy
  • complaints policy.

A process is a series of actions or steps that are taken to complete and achieve business outcomes.

For example:

A procedure is a detailed instruction that explains all the tasks that need to be completed in a workplace. These tasks may be stand alone or may be a part of a process.

For example:

  • instructions for how to pack and send a customer sales order within the sales and shipping process manual
  • steps for resolving a customer complaint within the customer service process manual.

Developing operational documents is particularly important in the initial stages of establishing your business. You may need to update them when changes occur during business operations—for example, hiring staff for the first time, moving locations or entering a growth phase.

Policies, processes and procedures at key phases of operation

There are 3 key phases of business operations:

  1. Starting up—the initial phase where the business works out its needs and priorities.
  2. Growing—when the business is starting to make a profit and could be having a growth in customers, sales, revenue and employees.
  3. Improving—when the business is established and efficient and can focus on making improvements to operations to maintain its position in the market.

The benefits of operational documents will depend on the phase your business is at.

Starting up phase benefits

During the starting up phase of your business, having operational documents can help to:

  • ensure that your business is compliant with regulatory and government requirements
  • establish a professional working environment
  • provide consistent guidance on how to conduct key business operations
  • streamline the management of internal operations.

Growing phase benefits

During the growing phase of your business, having policies, procedures and processes can help to:

  • standardise operations allowing staff to work more independently and with less supervision
  • delegate tasks, freeing up time for you to strategise and plan, rather than focus on day-to-day operations
  • deal with increasing complexity across the business
  • assist with staff onboarding
  • maintain compliance with regulatory and government requirements.

Improving phase benefits

During the improving phase of your business, having operational documents can help to:

  • solve complex problems with clients, operations, and equipment
  • tailor and improve the customer experience
  • save time and reduce costs by creating efficiencies
  • assist with staff training and development
  • identify activities that don't add value or are no longer needed.

Examples of policies, procedures and processes during operations

The following are examples of key business documents to help you at each key phase of operations.

Starting up phase examples

  • privacy and confidentiality
  • anti-discrimination
  • customer returns and refunds
  • customer and staff complaints
  • workplace health and safety
  • responding to breaches in privacy
  • dealing with complaints
  • work, health and safety guidelines
  • ordering supplies
  • setting up payments to staff and suppliers
  • fulfilling customer orders
  • posting social media updates

Growing phase examples

  • recruitment
  • induction
  • staff leave
  • remote working
  • business operations (e.g. opening and closing the store)
  • staff onboarding
  • applying for and logging leave requests
  • human resources (e.g. training and onboarding staff)
  • end-to-end operations (e.g. a flow chart for packing and shipping orders)
  • email newsletter to the customer database
  • annual stocktake

Improving phase examples

  • staff performance management
  • environment sustainability
  • bonus and incentive payments
  • risk management and mitigation
  • business continuity
  • strategic planning
  • continuous improvement
  • reviewing policies and procedures to deal with faults or redundancies
  • conducting risk analysis
  • conducting strategic and business planning

Standardising key business activities

Developing operational documents helps to standardise the key activities of your business. There are many benefits, including:

  • Staff learn systems quickly and can be delegated to run various functions of the business and manage risk without your input.
  • It is easier to maintain compliance with legislation and manage the risks around growth (e.g. tax, insurance, workplace health and safety, and human resources).
  • The business can run for a time without you. This allows you to spend time on research, maintain your drive and enthusiasm for business growth, or take leave from work.
  • The business is prepared to apply for government and other tenders.
  • There is more time available for staff to focus on sustainability (e.g. contributing to society and environment, and improving the brand's ethical stance). Read about becoming an environmentally friendly business.

Creating usable systems

Policy, processes and procedure documents are only valuable if staff can easily understand and use them.

The following tips can help you create systems that staff will be able to use effectively.

Consult with key staff or mentors to determine what key policies, procedures and processes are needed.

All actions taken within the organisation should be aligned with the purpose and objectives of the organisation. Ensure your policies, processes and procedures are aligned with your business goals and vision.

Policies, processes and procedures are only useful when all staff are aware of them.

Ensure that details of any new operational document is introduced clearly to all staff. You could:

  • incorporate them into your staff induction program with simplified guides for easy reference (e.g. in an induction booklet or key points cards)
  • link them to job descriptions and staff performance reviews
  • discuss them with all staff at regular meetings and encourage feedback to make improvements—generally staff are more familiar with daily tasks and better able to identify opportunities.

Ensure that your operational documents are tailored to the individual teams or groups within your business.

For example, where staff need simple instruction, a flow chart or numbered process chart on a wall beside equipment may be more appropriate than a detailed version of a process flow online.

Also make sure that you follow strict version control and document management principles. Ideally, you should have a single point of truth for all the latest versions of your operational documents. This will be more effective than having them in various formats across different systems.

Templates can save you time by ensuring documents are well structured and consistent. If you are using free templates available from government, legal firms and other business organisations, ensure that you customise them to your needs.

Codes of practice for business

Codes of practice are guidelines that provide information on how businesses can meet industry and legislative obligations or improve their practices. They are standards that are set by the government and industry.

There are 2 types of codes of practice—industry and voluntary.

Industry codes of practice

Industry codes of practice are enforceable by law and businesses must comply with them. These codes of practice are designed to protect customers and consumers.

Industry codes of practice provide:

  • principles and practical advice for how a business or industry should operate
  • detail on how to conduct business that complies with specific standards.

Some industry codes require businesses to keep documentation to show their compliance or give regular training to ensure that their staff can understand and follow the code.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can conduct a random compliance check of a business to ensure the code is being followed.

An example of a mandatory code is the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code—this applies to all Queensland food businesses and is enforced by Queensland Health and local government.

Voluntary codes of practice

Some codes of practice are voluntary—they are self-regulated and only apply to businesses that have signed up to them.

Voluntary codes of practice aim to help businesses improve their activities and meet legislative and regulatory requirements.

More information and resources

Find other resources on policies, procedures and processes and codes of practice:

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