A Living Vade Mecum
Policies, Processes And Procedures Are A Company’s Lifeline
Vade mecum is a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for reference. In the case of an airline, the vade mecum represents a set of manuals outlining policies, processes and procedures to ensure everyone across the organization is in compliance with industry and government regulations, as well as corporate bylaws. Without them, airlines may be vulnerable to liabilities, such as monetary fines, work accidents and customer dissatisfaction.
Policies are everywhere, from the governments of countries around the world down to the members of a family. Policies guide the decisions that entities make to accomplish the objectives they have set. Therefore, policies are fundamental as they guide actions.
In an organization, policies typically set the standards for acceptable behavior and business practices. They provide the framework for an organization’s entire operation.
In the airline industry, many policies are mandatory and are designed and enforced by regulatory agencies. By establishing their policies in accordance with those of regulatory authorities, airlines ensure that all employees companywide understand what they need to do, how they need to do it and the purpose of doing it, which, in turn, results in compliance with mandatory regulations.
Policies are the basis for the next step, which is the creation of the business processes. A business process is a sequence of related and structured activities that support the production of a specific service or product for customers. The process flow provides employees with an accurate guide to create and deliver the products and services an airline expects to offer its customers.
Having created the policies and processes, the next step is to develop procedures that describe how a product is created or a service is executed, which can be further broken down and documented in the form of work instructions.
Companies, such as airlines, need formal documentation clearly outlining policies, processes and procedures. This documentation, or vade mecum, gives employees guidance and insight into the company’s philosophy and provides a clear framework for how they should function in their respective roles.
Regardless of who is responsible for the manuals, subject matter experts from different areas across the organization should be involved in their maintenance, since they have the knowledge to learn specific processes and execute procedures.
Using well-structured, well-defined written policies saves time and money by alleviating the pressure on managers to constantly monitor employees’ performance and enabling them to focus on other managerial priorities. With this in mind, it is of utmost importance that an organization enforces the use of these documents and follows them as a business best practice.
An organization should have specific manuals — in electronic and/or written format — that provide employees with easy access to accurate information, such as booking, ticketing, payment, and check-in and boarding policies and procedures. The manuals must be clear and concise enough to foster its daily use within the organization.
Because changes to policies and procedures are frequently made to adjust to an organization’s needs or comply with new or revised regulations, maintaining and updating the manuals has become a daily activity. Therefore, it is important to have dedicated resources, such as the training department, corporate communications or the help desk division, who are responsible for this activity.
Furthermore, revised policies, processes and/or procedures must be communicated to employees impacted by the changes. For minor changes, an email message or discussion during staff meetings may be sufficient. More complex revisions may require additional training to ensure a clear understanding and correct application of the update.
Regardless of who is responsible for the manuals, subject matter experts from different areas across the organization should be involved in their maintenance, since they have the knowledge to create and update the information for their respective areas.
While primarily used for orientation and training, the manuals should be easily accessible, providing employees with a tool they can leverage to learn specific processes and execute procedures.
Regulations manuals provide numerous benefits to an airline, ensuring that:
- Clear guidelines are readily available to help employees understand their roles and responsibilities;
- Consistency is prevalent companywide to ensure proper handling of any event, product or service;
- Disciplinary actions are taken for non-compliance with mandatory policies, processes and/or procedures;
- Everyone associated with the company, such as employees, contractors and vendors, adheres to laws imposed by authorities, as well as bylaws set forth by the company;
- Customers receive the products and services promised.
A company’s policies, processes and procedures manuals are crucial in maintaining efficiency, consistency and communication across the entire organization.
Consistency generally drives efficiency. By doing things the same way every time, employees eventually guarantee a standard delivery of products and/or services at any point of customer contact. This boosts productivity and frees employees to focus on other important functions. Consistency helps employees and customers know what to expect and how to better respond when faced with any number of situations, such as:
- Which forms of payment are accepted,
- The types of rewards a frequent customer is entitled to receive,
- How to effectively manage a complaint.
According to URGO consulting, more than 50 percent of organizations now have written policies and procedures. Because all organizations can benefit from manuals that support their strategies and clearly outline regulatory policies, the percentage seems somewhat low.
Airlines that have not yet documented their policies, processes and procedures are vulnerable. They are putting their businesses, employees and even passengers at risk. Why take chances?