GRC Policy Management Best Practices

Policy management is an essential aspect of governance, risk, and compliance. Here are some best practices for writing and managing your GRC policies.

December 29, 2020

Article highlights
  • Different approaches to GRC policy management.
  • Developing a policy strategy.
  • Policy-writing process best practices.

Mapping your business operations to your organization’s vision, mission, and goals serves as a good first step toward your company’s success. But you must also factor in adhering to ever-changing government rules, standards, and regulations while also following industry guidelines – and doing it all with integrity and transparency.

All this adds to the complexity of managing your governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) program. In essence, you want to do the right thing, follow the law, keep your company out of trouble, turn a profit – and still compete in the marketplace. So, where do you even begin?

Policy management sets the foundation for any good GRC strategy. It serves as the front-line defense and paves the way to ensure consistency and excellence across the organization. Creating policies to guide your operations and then integrating these standards with your company’s goals, government rules and regulations, and industry guidelines can prove challenging – and overwhelming.

That’s why it helps to look at GRC policy management best practices to guide your efforts.

Different Approaches to GRC Policy Management

To effectively manage your GRC program, your company must marry corporate goals with regulatory compliance throughout the entire organization, relying on an efficient policy management approach to get the job done. Most organizations follow one of these three common GRC program approaches.

Reactionary

This policy management approach focuses on waiting to create (or update) policies until an issue or problem arises and needs to be addressed. When time and resources are in short supply, this becomes the default system, as overworked staff or tight budgets dictate what fire needs to be put out first.

Obviously, this is not a great strategy since it creates uncertainty among employees, lacks a collaborative approach, fosters redundancy, and isn’t forward-thinking. Without having a consistent GRC policy management strategy and framework to guide the process, this can lead to inconsistent and siloed policies. The result? A GRC program riddled with holes.

Autocratic

Another common approach to governance, risk, and compliance relies on a centralized system where only a handful of people make all the decisions, even though they might not clearly understand the differing needs of each division or department.

They seek little to no input from others, particularly managers and employees who work the systems every day. While this can be highly efficient and consistent, it can also lead to non-compliance by employees – especially when they feel they are not being heard or that the decision-makers are out of touch with day-to-day operations.

Plus, it can take a long time to review and update policies since it puts the burden on such a small group of people to do all the work. Again, not an ideal way to handle governance, risk, and compliance.

Comprehensive

This inclusive GRC policy management system follows a guiding strategy to policy decisions that takes appropriate input from all levels of the organization. It’s a collaborative, proactive approach that considers the needs across divisions and departments while still allowing for some level of autonomy.

Moreover, this comprehensive approach maps GRC program efforts to critical legal and compliance standards, thus producing consistent policies.

Because it’s forward-thinking and integrated, this policy management approach improves governance, reduces risk, and boosts compliance.

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Develop a Policy Strategy

Before you start plowing through policies and initiating an overhaul of your entire GRC program, step back and think through any organizational issues that need to be solved first.

Failing to identify and handle these potential snags at the beginning will lead to siloed and inconsistent policies and sabotage your GRC program.

Form a policy and governance team

If your organization is like many others, you already have a compliance or governance team, which may or may not be tasked specifically with policies. This team should be a cross-functional one that might include people from HR, compliance, risk, legal, and upper management. It should also include subject-matter experts who can be rotated depending on what policies the team is discussing.

Depending on the complexity of your company or the policies that you are developing, the size of your team can vary from really small to very large.

In some cases, you might only need to consult certain members (like legal) in the final stages rather than include them from start to finish. Other times, you might need to include supervisors or employees throughout the entire GRC policy management process to better understand technical elements or procedural specifics. It really depends entirely on your situation.

Regardless of your team’s size, the goal should be working together with intentionality, with all members contributing their unique experience, knowledge, and perspective.

Get a policy mandate

For your GRC policy management strategy to really have some teeth, your company leaders or board of directors need to leverage their authority by issuing a policy mandate. They also need to set parameters on what the team can approve on its own and what needs sign-off from above.

Plus, they should outline the ultimate goals of the policy management process so everyone is on the same page. Finally, they must allocate the appropriate budget and resources to allow the team to operate effectively.

Agree on a policy management process

You don’t want to get mired down in the GRC policy management process because of vague direction at the beginning. Agree ahead of time how the process will work. Pinpoint who is responsible for specific tasks.

Clearly explain the specific deliverables expected throughout the process, including key milestones that might need to be hit before other steps can be taken. Identify specific timelines so deadlines are clearly communicated to everyone involved. Outline the scope of the process so participants know beforehand what they’re really tasked with accomplishing.

If you don’t already have one, you should also come up with a standard policy format and structure for consistency and clarity. Plus, you need a single system where you can store and distribute your policies.

Using a policy and procedure management software like PowerDMS makes it easy to create, store, modify, and distribute policies – all from one centralized, secure location.

With so many other key issues to deal with when it comes to governance, risk, and compliance, don’t let your process get bogged down in the smaller details. Tap into technology to organize, streamline, and automate your GRC program so you can focus on the big issues.

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