What Is Policy Management and Why It Matters
- What is policy management?
- Why policy management matters.
- Policy management best practices.
Policy management is an essential part of any organization.
Policies communicate an organization’s mission and values. They help maintain standards, set expectations and minimize potential risks and liabilities.
An organization’s policy and procedure manual lay the foundation for operational excellence. When properly managed, policies set expectations, provide a direction for decisions, and hold employees accountable.
What Is Policy Management
Policy management, by definition, is the creation, organization, approval, and dissemination of policy and procedure documents.
But it’s so much more than that.
Policy management is the modernization of your policy manuals. Gone are the days of handing employees a manual on their first day and expecting that to be good enough to maintain consistency and protect your organization.
The policies themselves must be living documents that are able to adapt to the changing landscape and ever-changing threats you face.
Therefore, you must have a policy management plan in place that allows you to adapt quickly and keep your team members aware of current risks, threats, tactics, and information to help them do their jobs the right way.
This is especially true for high-risk, high-liability industries. Your resources and reputation are at risk every day and your policies are your first line of defense.
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Why Policy Management Matters
Depending on the size of your organization, the distance between the policy makers and those employees expected to know and follow the policies can be quite big.
This is why policy management matters. This gives you a plan, and more importantly, a system in place to ensure the policy communication and implementation are in sync.
Employees always know where to go to find the most up-to-date information to help them do their jobs with excellence and in line with the mission, vision, and values of the entire company.
After all, it can only take one incident to ruin your companies reputation and erode trust. With the right policy management systems in place, you can be proactive against these incidents, but also have concrete processes in place to quickly address and resolve the situation professionally.
Policy Management Best Practices
This all sounds good on paper, but how do you actually implement a policy management program in your company?
Here are some steps and best practices to help you get started.
It starts with the right tool
For this to work properly, you need a policy management software.
If you are relying on out-of-date solutions like paper, spreadsheets, email, or even Sharepoint to distribute and track your policies, you expose your organization to a tremendous amount of risk.
Paper is expensive and difficult to current. Spreadsheets are fraught with errors and unreliable. Emails go unread and are difficult to track with any reliability. And Sharepoint is difficult to setup and use.
Therefore you need a software to store, manage, distribute, and track your crucial policy documents.
Consistency is key
Consistency should be at the core of any good policy management program.
Too often policies are developed across multiple departments or by multiple leaders and end up very disjointed and difficult to understand.
When writing your policies, you should use the same template, using the same wording, and organized in the same way. When an employee sees a policy document, they should immediately understand that it is a crucial document and be able to understand the terms used throughout.
Consistency is also crucial for any disciplinary actions spelled out in the policies.
The remediation should be fair and carried out in the same way regardless of the circumstances or employees involved. This not only helps employees to understand the expectations, but it provides you cover from aggrieved employees who claim other employees were not given the same disciplinary actions.
Approved by leadership
Leadership buy-in to policies is important.
This may appear to be something managers or directors should spearhead, but getting approval from top leaders not only gives the policies legitimacy, but it helps them to ensure consistency with current company-wide priorities and expectations.
Whether you have a Chief Compliance Officer, or your Human Resources department takes the lead on employee policies, having top leaders like the CEO or COO review and approve policies is an important step.
Electronically track signatures
Being able to electronically track who has read and signed off on policies protects your organization against future liability.
It proves you provided employees with the proper information, they acknowledged it and chose to violate it anyway. Without that signature, it can be difficult to prove this out.
This is not about being draconian or overbearing, it is about consistency and a culture of accountability.
The goal is not to catch people in the act or set them up for failure. On the contrary.
By electronically tracking signatures on policies you communicate to your employees the importance of the information and that this is crucial information to help your whole organization to build trust and increase efficiency.
If you don’t give the policy information any value or importance, there’s a good chance your employees won’t either.
Make policies accessible
We are in an always-connected world. Your employees have an expectation that they should be able to find any piece of information in a matter of seconds.
For information as important as your policies, they shouldn’t have to ask around or track down documents across multiple sources of truth.
Instead, provide them with a secure, cloud-based solution that allows them to quickly search for and find exactly what they need.
You should also think about how to make your policies accessible on mobile devices.
This is particularly important for remote workers and those who are not tied to a desk all day long.
Train to your policies
Training and policies must go hand-in-hand.
Every person takes in information differently, so to properly reinforce your policies, your training should be based on your policies themselves.
The wording should be the same. The procedures and processes should be the same. The scenarios should be relevant to your culture and team.
But the effectiveness of these off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter training programs may not be as effective as developing training relevant to your circumstances.
Equally as important as tracking your policies, you should be tracking your employee training as well. This gives you the added cover of proving you trained employees on the expectations.
Plan for the entire policy lifecycle
Policies are not one-and-done documents.
Just as the challenges and risks you face are ever changing, your policies must adapt to the current realities.
That doesn’t mean your policies should react to every incident. Rather, your policy management plan should dictate a regular review process that includes key team members from all levels of the organization to ensure the policies are accurate, relevant, and effective.
In many cases, policies do not need to change very often. In this case, it’s good to still distribute them and track signatures.
In situations where you do need to update a policy, make it easy on your employees by indicating what has changed and what has not. This helps improve comprehension and retention.
No matter where you are with policy management in your organization, taking any step is better than nothing.
However, PowerDMS is a comprehensive policy management solution that can help with each one of these best practices.
With one piece of software, you can store, manage, organize, distribute, track, and conduct training on your policies. And getting started is easy.
Let us show you how PowerDMS can solve your policy management needs by contacting us for a free live demo.