Policy and Procedure Management for Local Government
Achieving consistency and efficiency throughout city hall.
- Why policies and procedures matter.
- Modernizing your policy manual.
Effective policy and procedure management has never been more critical for local governments.
Local governments have a broad range of services and responsibilities to the communities they serve.
City and county government employees are the ones on the ground improving communities and interacting with citizens. Local governments are often the ones carrying out federal and state programs and laws.
Every aspect of government work comes with many regulations, laws, ethical considerations, and measures for oversight.
Administrators in all branches of government must maintain accurate records on everything from activities to personnel to citizen complaints. And local governments also must make sure every employee abides by regulations and can effectively serve the public.
Plus, local governments face increased scrutiny from the public and the media. With constant budgetary pressures, government agencies are often asked to do more with less. This makes it all the more essential for governments to communicate clear goals and expectations to every employee.
HR managers and supervisors must figure out how to make sure every government employee knows policies and procedures.
As local governments seek to manage documents with limited time and money, many are turning to technology solutions.
A good policy and procedure management software can help local governments manage documents and records more efficiently. It can help administrators hold employees accountable and make sure operations run smoothly across all departments.
Why Policies & Procedures Matter
Every organization needs policies and procedures to function efficiently. Good policies make sure that an organization is complying with laws, regulations, and best practices.
As we pointed out in our post What Are Policies and Procedures?: “Together, policies and procedures guide an organization and reduce liability risks. They promote consistency across the organization –both for employees and for customers.”
But policies and procedures are especially important for local governments.
Policies and procedures bring consistency across departments
Policies and procedures keep operations running smoothly and help cultivate the workplace culture. This brings consistency across departments.
Even when the roles of various departments are vastly different, consistency in culture and baseline policies helps bring a sense of unity. Consistency in things like dress code, vacation policy, and promotion practices can contribute to reducing potential squabbles between departments.
This consistency also makes collaborations between departments easier, which encourages innovation. Departments can work together on important projects that better the community.
Policies and procedures hold employees accountable
Local governments are ultimately responsible to the people in the communities they govern. Therefore, it’s essential for governments to have accountability measures in place.
Policy and procedures set up internal accountability structures for employees and supervisors.
By laying out guidelines and boundaries, policies help hold employees accountable. If any staff member violates the standards of acceptable behavior, policies and procedures outline the steps for discipline and investigating incidents.
Policies and procedures help governments build trust with citizens
Policies and procedures are a fundamental part of excellence in operations. Sound policies help local governments function efficiently and maintain trust with both employees and community members.
When government agencies are running efficiently internally, they are better able to communicate openly with the community.
People in the community will see the government as legitimate and be more willing to engage and partner with the government to improve the community.
Printed Manuals Aren’t Enough
Local government has complex structures, and each department may have its own particular policies and procedures. This can make record keeping and document management especially tricky.
Government agencies must keep up with changing regulations, new laws, and new programs. Administrators need to be able to quickly communicate with every staff member about changes in policy and procedure.
However, many local governments still use a paper-based or email-based policy and procedure management system. This involves storing documents on an internal server and communicating policy with staff through a mix of paper manuals and email.
There are many drawbacks to this kind of policy and procedure management system:
Printed manuals waste time and money
Studies show that the average office employee prints 10,000 pages every year, costing companies thousands of dollars in paper and printing costs. Local government operations require lots of paperwork, and paper and printing costs can eat into already tight budgets.
A number of administrative staff hours required to maintain paper-based document management can also get expensive.
Administrators and HR personnel can spend a lot of time and energy printing paper policy manuals, distributing them to employees, and gathering signatures. This takes away from the time they can devote to more important tasks.
Paper documents are unreliable
Policies and procedures only bring consistency and accountability if employees read them and follow them.
With paper policy manuals, it can be difficult to make sure every employee gets an up-to-date manual. It’s even harder to ensure that employees read and understand policies.
Paper policy manuals can easily get lost, destroyed, or just ignored. An internal server can crash or get hacked. And if employees get policies via email, they may still misplace or ignore them.
If staff members don’t know policies and procedures, they can’t meet expectations and effectively serve the public.
Printed manuals are hard to update
A paper-based policy and procedure management system makes updates difficult.
If a law changes or a state implements a new program, it may take weeks for policies and procedures to get updated. And it may take even longer after that for every staff member to hear about the changes.
This delay can be costly. It may mean that employees keep following old procedures and have to go back and redo their work.
It may slow down operations and reduce the quality of service government employees can give to the public.
Modernize Your Policy Manual
Government agencies are often slow to adopt new technology. However, both government employees and constituents are used to using technology in other aspects of their lives.
They’re ready for government agencies to catch up on using technology to spread relevant information.
In a recent survey of government employees, only 15 percent of respondents said their agency is making new technology available to employees at the same pace as the private sector.
Seventy-five percent believed they would be more productive if their agency used technology to increase access to information. And 75 percent also said digital technology would help them better serve the stakeholders in their community.
It’s time for local governments to take steps to modernize their policy and procedure management.
A policy and procedure management software can help agencies operate more efficiently and effectively.
Easier collaborations and updates
When it comes time to update policies and procedures, a good software makes it easy.
Administrators can create a workflow to gather feedback on a policy draft from the necessary people. They can quickly update the policy and distribute it to staff with just the click of a button.
Modernized document management also makes it simple to collaborate on a document between departments.
Instead of having to coordinate meetings between leaders from multiple departments, administrators can just create a document and give the necessary people permission to edit and collaborate.
Staff have access to what they need when they need it
Using policy and procedure management software ensures that every staff member is looking at the most up-to-date policies.
Most software securely stores documents in the cloud, where employees can easily access them from any computer or mobile device.
Online policy management gives employees access to the right information at the right time. Instead of flipping through a paper policy manual, employees can do a simple keyword search to find a particular policy.
With a policy and procedure management software, supervisors can make sure employees read and understand policies.
They can track electronic signatures on policy manuals, and can even issue short tests on new policies.
This helps ensure that every staff member knows expectations and can do their jobs more effectively.
Cloud-based software keeps important documents safe from server crashes, on-site accidents, and hacks. It gives administrators full control over who can access and edit documents and maintains a complete audit trail for each document.
Many policy and procedure management software programs can work with any word processor. All it takes to get started is a browser and an internet connection.
Policy and procedures are incredibly important for local governments.
It’s essential for government agencies to be able to quickly and easily distribute information to all staff members.
Implementing policy and procedure management software can help local governments streamline operations, hold staff accountable, and better serve constituents.