Among the many responsibilities of operating a shop is making sure the business, its staff, customers and suppliers follow all applicable laws and regulations. This is accomplished by keeping up-to-date with regulations, and then developing the appropriate systems and/or procedures to comply with those rules.
An effective way to do this is by crafting written policies and standards. Carefully drafted and standardized policies and procedures can save an organization countless hours of management time. Research and experience has shown that effective and enforceable written policies promote consistency, continuity and understanding within an organization.
There is also a legal aspect of policies in that it helps manage risk and protects the legal interests of a company, especially when it comes to worker safety. Take, liability, for example. The basic premise behind liability lawsuits is that the shop manager and/or the employer ought to have known better and should have taken greater care to protect the employee and prevent injury.
As businesses increasingly are facing litigation related to negligence, it is now more important than ever for shop and fleet managers to ensure they know what the issues are and take steps to protect themselves and their employers. How the shop operates and the policies in place are some of the things that will determine the level of risk. Policies are vital to have in place in an organization so all employees know what is expected of them and what they can and can’t do.
According to authorities on business management, many managers, as well as employees, think of organization policies in a negative light. They are viewed as a means to control behavior. Granted, there are policies that seem restrictive and they may be needed to be to promote good internal control.
However, fair and enforceable policies can help empower employees by providing them with a degree of freedom within defined boundaries. With good policies in place, employees are able to execute their duties and are free to act within the limits set by policy, without constant managerial oversight. In that way, policies empower employees to do the right thing.
A company’s greatest asset is its employees. Empowered employees are usually happier and more productive as they are able to use their own innovation to streamline inefficient processes and correct problems and issues. This helps save time and money and increases shop efficiency and productivity. Beyond that, a work environment consisting of empowerment helps keep top employees and will attract new, high quality ones.
Policy writing is no easy task. To develop good policies that enhance the chances of achieving organizational objectives, it is important to understand exactly what a policy is and how it differs from a procedure. A policy, basically, is a predetermined course of action established as a guide toward accepted the objectives and strategies of the organization. A procedure describes exactly how to carry out the policy.
When developing policies, business management authorities advise starting with the organization’s mission statement and coming up with objectives that reflect the critical success factors of the company. At a minimum, a mission statement should succinctly define what an organization is, why it exists and its reason for being.
For some advice and guidance on what makes for an effective policy manual, Fleet Maintenance Magazine turned to the NAFA Fleet Management Association’s Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) Program. The program is the oldest and largest fleet certification in the world and the only program that attests to one’s expertise in the profession.
NAFA is a not-for-profit, individual membership professional society that serves the needs of members who manage fleets of all types of vehicles and mobile equipment for organizations across the globe.
CAFM Program materials make clear that the foundation for developing effective policies is to bring the stakeholders in the organization together and develop key organization policies. These include such components as: mission; organizational philosophy (including beliefs and commitments); aims, objectives and strategies; and determining priorities for policy development during the coming 12 months.
Next should comes a consultative process that includes the following key elements: identifying areas for policy development; brainstorming the issues involved, with a focus on naming the issues, not necessarily attempting to resolve the issues; having a person assigned to preparing a policy draft; and circulating the draft is for comments.
Following this, there needs to be a review process wherein a committee or the original policy developers meet to go over the policy and any comments and suggestions, and then amend, revise or improve the draft. This step should be repeated if necessary.
Once a policy draft is finalized, it should be forwarded to the board/management committee for approval. Once accepted, the new policy needs to be incorporated into the company’s policy and procedures manual. Following this, the policy should be distributed and communicated to all employees, especially those who are impacted by it, and when necessary, training provided to ensure all appropriate staff has the knowledge and skills to implement the new policy.
The CAFM Program curriculum teaches putting the date on which the policy was agreed within the new policy, as well as adding a sunset clause or a statement saying the date on which the policy must be reviewed. Any policy should be a “living document,” subject to change. Existing policies need to be revised and augmented as a company and business conditions change.
A staff meeting or a board/management committee meeting ought to be held once every 12 months to look at the policy and organizational manual and ask whether the policies in it are still relevant and appropriate, recommends the CAFM Program curriculum. If not, a process like the aforementioned one should be followed to revise existing policy or develop new policy.
Some business management authorities note that many documents stating a company’s policies simply define the course of action but don’t give any reason or explanation for the policy. Knowing the reason can be a help in having policies adhered to, they say. Policies may be misunderstood, and as years pass, the reasons for writing the policies may be forgotten.
Moreover, they say including the rationale can assist future managers in understanding the thinking behind the policy. If conditions change and the rationale is no longer valid, it is then possible to change the policy, using a new rationale. This will prevent getting into the “We’ve always done it that way” mentality, without knowing why or if that way is really valid anymore.
Along with making sure rules and regulations are followed, a company’s policies become a framework for consistency and fairness. Polices define management’s standards for making decisions on various personnel and organizational issues. Having clearly defined procedures and standards created from polices that are well thought out, express the company’s intent to make consistent and even-handed decisions, and that helps with employee behavior, motivation and longevity.
The shops contribution to the overall success of an organization is significant. A professionally managed shop and fleet can control costs, provide valuable information to top management and minimize time-consuming problems, thus enabling everyone to perform their function effectively. An effective policy and organizational manual will dearly define one’s professional approach to their management responsibilities.