Leaders and administrators discuss local government policies.
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January 11, 2018
    Article highlights
  • The problem with siloed policies.
  • Why consistent policies matter.
  • Leveraging technology to improve policy consistency.

City governments are expected to fulfill many different roles and responsibilities. From city planning to community services, law creation and enforcement, local government responsibilities vary widely.

This can make it difficult to effectively create and manage local government policies. With so many different departments and roles, creating consistent government policies can seem daunting.

Developing consistent local government policies is certainly no easy task. But it’s not impossible.

Effective policy management in government often starts with gathering all government policies in one place and ensuring that they all follow the same format and have the same requirements.

A good policy management software makes this process easier.

Policy management software can help your municipal government create, distribute, and maintain good, consistent policies across every department.

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The Problem With Siloed Policies

Often, city government leaders and administrators end up managing government policies and procedures separately in each department.

This can result in inconsistencies, leading to different practices and expectations between departments.

This departmental, or siloed approach, creates a number of problems for those trying to manage the policies for all government employees.

Employee onboarding gets confusing

Too often, distributing policies to new employees means giving them an employee a handbook on their first day and having them sign that they received it.

From there, the handbook is left in a desk drawer or on a shelf rarely opened except to check for paid holidays or how much sick time employees are due.

This is problematic for many reasons.

The policies contained in the employee handbook are critical for employees to follow. But how much does each new hire grasp with all of the information they’re taking in? And how can you, as a manager, ensure that they understood what they read?

It’s even more problematic if policies are inconsistent between departments.

Employees may end up with different baseline expectations and requirements between departments. This creates confusion and can even result in conflict if an employee feels the differing policies are unfair.

Local government policies being managed by an HR team.

Hard to keep current

Many local government policies are department-specific. For example, public works will have a different set of different policies and procedures than city planning or IT.

However, some of the most critical policies and procedures apply citywide. It is important that all of these policies work together to make up a cohesive, consistent policy manual.

If each department has a separate system for updating and maintaining their policies, it can make it near impossible to keep it up to date with the citywide policies coming from the HR, IT, or City Manager’s office.

Administrators in every department will have to update their department’s version of policies, make sure their policy changes are sent back to the HR or City Manager’s office, and also make sure the version their department employees have contains the latest version of each policy.

This is not only a ton of work, it also means some employees are likely looking at older versions of or outdated policies.

When it comes to essential, citywide policies such as sexual harassment and diversity training, having conflicting or outdated versions can be a significant liability risk.

Other citywide policies, such as acceptable use, BYOD, and social media policies, can also pose security risks if they are not up-to-date and followed properly.

Difficult to enforce

Inconsistent policies result in inconsistent practices.

This certainly applies to citywide policies. It’s essential to have the same standards, requirements, and disciplinary measures for things such as harassment across every department in the city government.

But consistency also matters in enforcing even department-specific policies. Policies across the entire local government should follow similar values and hold employees to similar standards for ethical and professional conduct.

This doesn’t mean that every department needs to be run the same or have the exact same policies. But if there isn’t a central process and system, it’s hard for city leaders to act when there is an issue.

As a result, only the most egregious policy violations are addressed.

Holding employees to similar standards and taking similar disciplinary measures helps improve accountability across all departments.

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Why Consistent Policies Matter

Different government departments often have to work together to provide community services or respond to emergencies.

Consistent local government policies makes it easier for different departments to collaborate and communicate effectively and provide the services citizen expect from their government.

Consistent policies and procedures give all government employees a shared language, a shared vision, and shared understanding of how to best serve the public.

Using the same processes and systems to house and manage all city government policies helps make policies and practices more consistent across the whole municipal government.

This has several benefits:

Simplicity

Managing local government policies and procedures separately in each department may seem easier, but over time, it often results in disorganization and chaos.

It may mean spending extra time tracking down a copy of a particular policy or determining which employee has gone through which training. Not to mention the added cost associated with multiple systems.

Housing government policies in one place ensures that all policies are easy to access and update.

Administrators don’t have to search through handbooks or department servers to find the records or policies they need. And employees don’t need to go flipping through a manual to determine what is and isn’t policy.

A policy management software like PowerDMS makes it easy to collaborate on policy reviews and revisions. Administrators have complete version control and can see the full history of every document.

They can make sure employees in every department only see the most updated version of each policy, and track which employees have been trained on and signed off on specific policies. This is particularly important if and when a policy has been violated.

Accountability

Consistent policies only result in consistent practices if they’re implemented and enforced. Even the best city policies won’t do any good if employees never read them, or if they are reading the wrong version.

Handing employees a handbook on their first day is not enough to ensure that they actually read and understand the policies. Often, the employee handbook ends up simply gathering dust on a shelf.

When you are actively reviewing, updating, and monitoring policies and compliance, you are sending a clear signal to employees that the policies matter and they will be held accountable for following them.

Consistent policies ensure that employees knowing what is expected of them. And when policies are well-managed and enforced consistently, it creates accountability for employees to follow through with those expectations.

This creates a well run, more efficient local government.

Policy management software can add a layer of accountability by tracking employee signatures and delivering tests to make sure employees comprehend policies.

Government employees review plans together.

Public trust

When the city government has consistent policies and practices, it results in better services.

The public will consistently encounter the same level of professionalism and efficiency when dealing with government employees from any department and every interaction with your government.

This fosters trust between the local government and the community.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Policy Consistency

A policy and procedure management software makes it easier to create and manage consistent government policies.

Here are a few ways to use technology to manage your local government policies more effectively:

Easily edits and approve policy changes

Many government policies may need input from several different levels of government officials. Policy management software makes collaborations simple.

You don’t have to call a meeting or run around between departments. And anyone who has tried to track changes in an emailed document knows how frustrating and time consuming it can be.

Simply create a workflow to automatically send the policy document to the next person who needs to review or approve the draft. This simplifies the processes, while still allowing the right department leaders to have access and authority over the policies pertinent to their team.

PowerDMS lets you track of everyone’s notes and changes all in one place and view the full document history to see what has changed over time.

Assign policies for employees to sign

Once you’ve landed on the final version of the policy, a policy management software lets you distribute the policy to employees with just the click of a button.

It then tracks employee signatures to make sure everyone acknowledges the new or updated policy.

This not only allows you to quickly see how many employees have read a particular policy, but you can also drill into specific employee records to see how well they are keeping up with what has been assigned to them. This can come in handy if there are questions about that employee’s actions, or why they may have received a subpar performance review.

Simplify Your Policy Management

See for yourself how easy it can be to manage, update, and distribute your policies using PowerDMS.

Store every policy in a single, secure location

Housing all your local government policies in one place makes them easier to find and update.

You don’t have to search through filing cabinets to find a policy or track down which manager is responsible for making changes to each policy.

This can save you time and frustration when everyone is working from the same source of truth.

One location also makes it easier for employees to access policies and procedures. With PowerDMS’s secure, cloud-based system, employees can do a simple keyword search to find the information they need.

Make it easy to see what has changed

Sometimes major policies need a simple tweak or slight word change to stay in compliance with the current laws.

While these small policy changes are important, they can be hard for employees to spot or comprehend what has changed.

PowerDMS allows you to show your employees a side-by-side comparison of the old and new version of a document – highlighting what has changed. This makes it super simple for employees to understand what the change is and how it applies to them.

This can be a major time saver for employees, and boost their comprehension of policy revisions.

Attach training to policies

Local government policies should bed tied to training.

In some cases, such as with sexual harassment or diversity training, it’s more effective to give examples with an instructor rather than just sending out a policy.

In these cases, it’s helpful to have your policies and training in the same system. That way, you can easily link policies and training content and ensure they line up.

PowerDMS allows you to host and track online training with your policies, helping you create consistent policies and train employees so those policies can flow into consistent practices.

Government employee making changes to a policy document.

All in all, thinking about your policy, procedure, and training management across your entire city will create a more consistent experience for your employees, and help you manage and maintain your crucial documents.

It can take some effort to get to this point, but once you implement a cohesive system, you’ll wonder how you ever went without.

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