When you are trying to piece together a comprehensive, effective solution, it pays to understand and follow policy management best practices – from pre-policy tasks to the continuous monitoring and audit.
As a first step – before you even draft your first policy – identify key policy stakeholders within your organization, such as Human Resources, Legal, Finance, IT, and Compliance.
Establish a Policy Committee filled with top-level management who can align policies and procedures throughout the company and keep policy efforts on course. And clearly identify management roles and responsibilities to boost accountability.
Once the key players are in place, use a structured framework to create all policies. Develop a “master policy” that clearly outlines the process of creating, reviewing, and approving all future company policies. Craft a standard policy template in structure, design, and style.
For example, include a legal disclaimer, key sections, and your company logo. And write in a clear, consistent style to make policies easy to understand.
Once policies are written, it’s time to deploy them, which includes developing a formal employee communication, training, and attestation plan. This provides a clear path to ensure employees know about the policies, understand what’s expected of them, and sign the policies. The final step? Creating a plan to continuously review, monitor, audit, and revise your policies as needed.
Now that you understand the basic steps for effective policy management, what key elements should you include?
Common policy template and language
Employees should know, at a glance, that a document is a formal policy and the language used should be common, easy to understand, and relevant to their business.
Because every company’s needs are different, you can’t simply use a sample policy, take a copy-and-paste approach, and assume it will meet your particular needs.
Central location for all policies
In the past, all organizations relied on paper-based methods to manage policies. (Unfortunately, many still do. But there’s a better way – automated policy management. More on this later.) There are a lot of down-sides to using paper-based methods.
For example, because all policies are printed, they would need to be updated manually – a costly, time-consuming, inefficient approach. Also, relying on a paper-based system often means a more siloed approach, with different departments or divisions creating different solutions.
This often results in confusing (and sometimes even contradictory) policies because everyone is not on the same page.
The gold standard in effective policy management? Create a single source of truth for all policies so employees never have to guess where to look for information.
Version control of policy revisions
When your business changes a policy, employees need to be alerted that there is a change and that the old policy has been removed from circulation. Trying to manage policy versions is beyond challenging if you’re dealing with a paper-based system.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous element of having a central location for all policies. This guarantees that employees have the latest and most accurate information at all times.
In reality, keeping your critical documents accurate, current, and accessible can only be done with policy management software.
Defined approval process
Typically, policy changes need to go through a number of approvals before they are finally published. Therefore, it is important to have a clearly defined process that is followed for each new policy. Besides making the policy process more efficient, it ensures all pertinent approvers are included in the changes.
Attestation tracking and reporting
An important element of effective policy management lies in your ability to track who has received, reviewed, and signed each policy revision. This is crucial for proving compliance and reducing liability. It’s not enough to simply email a policy change or put it in employees’ mailboxes – you need to be able to prove they have acknowledged receipt of the policy.
Policies are reviews regularly
Writing policies isn’t a one-and-done effort where the end result sits in a giant, dusty, three-ring binder on a shelf. Think of the policies themselves as living documents that must adapt to the changing landscape and ever-changing risks your business faces.
As a rule of thumb, most policies should be reviewed at least every year. That doesn’t mean they need to be updated annually. But they should be reviewed to ensure they are still relevant and achieving the desired effect.
Train to your policies
For effective policy management, you should adopt the mantra “train to your policies.” To achieve better compliance and reduce your risk, your training needs to reinforce your policies.
The language should be the same. The training should talk specifically about how it pertains to policy compliance. And you need to test employees to ensure they comprehend what the policy or procedure is they are supposed to follow.
Implementing policies and procedures through the lens of best practices ensures that employees always know where to go to find the most up-to-date information. This will help them do their jobs with excellence and in line with the mission, vision, and values of the entire company.
With a solid grasp of the basic steps for effective policy management – including the key elements to include every step of the way – turn to a policy management solution like PowerDMS to help you implement each element quickly and efficiently. Or keep learning more about policy management and how your organization can improve its processes.
Automated policy management saves time, reduces costs, ensures consistency, and provides one centralized, easily accessible location to house your most critical documents. Plus, it boosts your agility by allowing you to easily incorporate the latest laws and regulations into your policy changes, thus reducing your risk and liability.