Using Business Policies and Procedures to Engage Employees

Four hands each holding an interlocked puzzle pieceI read an interesting article recently called How to Engage & Retain Employees by Roberta Matuson. In the article, Matuson mentioned three factors that typically appear in employee surveys of what they want from their work:

  • The opportunity for them to learn new skills
  • Control over how they do their work
  • Managers who give them the support they need to succeed

Systematizing a business (i.e., documenting the work policies and procedures that live in the heads of managers and employees) is a great opportunity to increase employee engagement. Satisfying the wants of employee and management through systemization creates many benefits for everyone. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Why?

Employee Resistance to Policies and Procedures

Most business owners and managers prioritize business systemization somewhere between annual employee reviews and closing down the business. For those enlightened owners and managers who do allocate resources toward systematizing the business, the effort often fails to produce desired results. This is partly caused by management failing to

  • Enroll their employees in the systemization project
  • Get active participation and input from employees

Workers have good reason to resist business systemization. It’s often been the prelude to layoffs and firings. If management has detailed procedures that show step-by-step how to do employees’ work, employees often fear they’ll be let go.

Systematize the Business to Engage Employees

One key to successfully systematizing a business is for management to acknowledge employees’ fears. This is especially important when employees would have difficulty getting a new job. Following that acknowledgement, management should enroll employees in the project by showing them the benefits employees personally get from the effort. Here is how the three job factors employees typically want can be increased through business systemization.

The opportunity for them to learn new skills

When an employee’s job is documented through policies and procedures, it becomes much easier to successfully transfer that knowledge to another employee. Systemization facilitates employee cross-training. It enables employees to quickly gain new skills, makes them more versatile, more valuable, and more marketable.

Control over how they do their work

When management gives employees freedom to design their workflows, employees feel respected for their job knowledge. Management should identify what the results of workflows should be, not how the work should be done. Employees who consistently produce the desired results know better than management how to do the work. By empowering employees to specify how work should be done, management creates employee ownership of that work. The work becomes something personal to employees, not just something to endure to get a paycheck.

Managers who give them the support they need to succeed

Systemization makes it easier to identify the skill sets needed to excel at individual jobs and to match jobs to employees’ own skill sets. Lateral transfers can afford employees the chance to use the skills they’re most effective with, make them more efficient, and free up time that can be used for other strategic projects to improve the company’s bottom line.

When the workflow is documented through policies and procedures, it’s much easier to identify problems such as choke points, duplicative work, and missing or late-arriving resources. It also becomes much easier for management and employees to work together to create solutions. They see the same set of steps instead of their own mental picture of the steps.

By properly enrolling employees in business systemization, business owners and managers can not only increase worker engagement, they can also begin to identify and eliminate hidden wastes (i.e. costs) from the business. Reducing hidden costs can significantly increase business profitability.


As Writing Jim, Jim Driggers provides copywriting and business process writing to owners of small and medium-sized businesses. His clients gain sales through marketing text that better resonates with their customers, and they save money when their employees follow guides rather than impulses. His clients give themselves the time to focus on what they do well when they leave their writing to Writing Jim.

For copywriting help with your print or online content or for help systematizing your business, contact Writing Jim at [email protected] or 925-231-5825. Visit for more information.

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