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Courtney Reynaud, President and CEO of Creditors Bureau USA, has found great success in her agency due in part to her careful attention to policies, procedures and work instructions. Although, she didn’t always have such a strong compliance management system.
Before her office focused on these practices, she noticed blame would often be placed with a single employee or a client. Reynaud explained that blaming others “is just part of human nature.” However, assigning blame to employees hurts morale, and pointing a finger at clients weakens your relationship (and may cause them to find another agency to do business with). Finally, blame does nothing to get to the heart of a problem and will not stop it from happening again.
On the other hand, creating a compliance system for isolating and addressing problems can boost efficiency and morale, making your business more attractive to new clients. So where should you start?
“Policies, procedures and work instructions are extremely important to troubleshooting a problem”Courtney Reynaud
She advocates for completing a Root Cause Analysis after each incident that occurs within your agency. When she began this process in her own business, she noticed a pattern. After putting out numerous “fires” and resolving office issues, Reynaud found the cause of most issues can be attributed to one of two reasons:
1. No Company Policy, Procedure or Work Instruction Has Been Written
The most common reason any issue arises at an agency is because nothing in the Company Policy or office manual addresses the problem. This is a golden opportunity to write a guideline that will help employees in the future. Occasionally, a root cause analysis will find that there is a rule in place but is so outdated that it no longer provides guidance to those who find it.
In the case of an outdated policy, it’s best to update it right away when the situation that caused the issue is fresh in your mind. Aside from accurate policies and procedures, taking care of problems as they occur has another benefit. By creating and maintaining policies, procedures and work instructions piece by piece, you don’t subject yourself to a grueling comprehensive compliance audit that will bring daily operations to a halt.
2. Lack of Training
Policies, procedures and work instructions are only helpful if employees are aware of your rules. There are many reasons an individual may not have received the training they were supposed to receive. “Maybe the employee was absent on that training day and no one trained them later down the road,” says Reynaud. “Oftentimes the problem is related to how the training was conveyed to an employee. Did we only train verbally? Did we provide the employee with a written instruction? Did we give hands-on or on-the-job training? Learning and teaching methods vary amongst trainers, trainees and employees, so ensuring you are teaching to all learning types is important. This helps confirm your policies and procedures are adhered to and understood.”
There may be instances where an employee actually is the root of your issue. But you may find that even those cases can be minimized (and even eliminated) when focusing on policies and procedures rather than an individual’s actions.
“By using the Root Cause Analysis approach and not immediately placing blame on an employee, the culture of our office changed over time to mutual respect, camaraderie and understanding,” says Reynaud. “My staff knows that although occasionally mistakes are made, those mistakes can usually be addressed in the form of updating or writing a policy/procedure/work instruction and resolved by providing regular training and feedback. All of this can occur without the need to place blame on an employee.”
How to Get Started
The Professional Practice Management System (PPMS), sponsored by ACA International, is a program specially designed to help agency owners and managers learn to create and maintain their policies, procedures and work instructions.
“The tools provided in this class are invaluable and cannot be duplicated,” says Reynaud. “If you have already taken a PPMS class, you can pursue additional knowledge and best practices by participating in ACA or your State Unit’s education events. These events are geared towards debt collection agency owners, managers and staff and provide much needed tools and training to your top-level people.”
“All agencies of any size and any market can benefit from the PPMS certification,” explains Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of State Collection Service, Chair of ACA’s PPMS Committee and Certified PPMS Instructor Tina Hanson. “It is built on a very customizable foundation that allows each company to build their specific program, using the framework, so it works in any environment.”
In the meantime, for a beginner’s look at creating an agency’s compliance management system (CMS):