Documenting everything may sound laborious and long-winded, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we’ve been known to cut a company’s written policies down from 125 to just 40 – we’re big fans of efficiency and simplicity.
In part five of this seven-part series, we’re looking closely at documentation. Just like any area of your business, you don’t have to do everything at once – you can work on it a piece at a time.
1. Policies and procedures
Many businesses don’t have any formal policies and procedures in place, let alone documented policies and procedures. But policies and procedures protect your business as well as your team. If you don’t have documented policies and procedures, you could find yourself getting caught up in completely avoidable legal battles.
They act as guidelines for every employee, covering everything from workplace conduct to data handling, disciplinary procedures to supplier management.
But policies and procedures shouldn’t just be documented in a lengthy staff handbook that gathers dust on a shelf or gets handed out to new employees. Your policies and procedures should be dynamic, easily accessible and simple. The clearer they are, the better.
2. Systems and processes
As discussed in part four of this series, documented processes ensure every employee completes tasks and records information in the same way and to the same standard. And documenting how to use your systems and follow processes doesn’t have to involve wordy PDFs that nobody looks at.
Flowcharts can be a great way to document processes, using shapes, colours and icons to demonstrate when a decision needs to be made or when a document needs to be completed.
Having short explainer videos or interactive training software can be an effective way of teaching new employees how to use systems and follow processes correctly.
3. HR and training records
As well as documenting formal HR policies and procedures, it’s important to keep employee records up to date. This should include copies of their employment contract, any performance reviews, training records, and notes from any formal meetings, disciplinary action, return to work meetings and so on.
Ensure that all personnel files are kept secure and confidential, in line with GDPR guidelines.
4. Risk analysis
A risk analysis helps identify risks, calculate their probability and assess the level of impact they could have on the business. Risks can be operational, financial, safety, technical, reputational or human. A risk analysis is useful in project planning, preparing for events or implementing change.
A risk analysis doesn’t have to be convoluted or involve pages and pages of tick boxes, but it should be documented. This shows you did your due diligence.
Documenting them also allows you to compare a recent risk analysis to previous ones. What has changed? Are there new risks to be aware of? Have some risks become less probable? Has the impact on the business increased or reduced?
Use the data to inform business decisions, capitalise on opportunity and mitigate risk
5. H&S and compliance
Poor health and safety or non-compliance can be devastating to a business. If you aren’t taking your legal responsibilities seriously, it could result in all kinds of issues and even fatalities.
That’s why anything relating to health and safety or compliance must be recorded correctly. Having efficient and simple systems and processes makes it easier for teams to collect and record the required data.
6. Financial records
Financial records should be kept for obvious reasons – to keep track of spending, ensure you are making a profit and keep HMRC happy. But they are also extremely useful for informing business decisions and planning for growth.
Keep your financial records as current as possible – there are some fantastic accounting software solutions on the market that can help you with this. If you use a bookkeeper, ensure you get regular reports or can access your financial records easily.
7. Streamline and simplify
Nobody wants to spend more time than necessary filling in forms and entering data into spreadsheets.
Streamline your processes as much as possible. Make forms as simple as possible to complete. Don’t duplicate data entry or collect data you don’t need. Make use of software, apps and automation. And wherever possible, make documents digital so you can access, update, amend and review easily.
How ISO 9001 frameworks can improve documentation
ISO 9001 is all about implementing effective quality management systems, and a big part of this is implementing effective systems for recording and documenting data.
Once you’ve got templates and systems in place, it makes life easier for your teams. Everyone will know how to record data and where to find the information they need — no more wasted time looking for missing risk assessments or stray order forms.
And documents don’t have to be in paper format – everything can be managed online. Having good processes in place for documentation allows you to:
- Find information quickly
- Collect and analyse data more easily
- Stay compliant and satisfy auditors
- Improve reporting and communications
- Spot potential risks before they cause a problem
Whether you decide to gain ISO certification or not is irrelevant. The important part is getting the systems in place that help you achieve the above.
If you’d like to find out more about how implementing ISO methodology can help you build a world-class business, with or without the certification, then get in touch.