How to provide and control access to important policies

Document access and control are key elements of your policy management plan.

June 15, 2021

Article highlights

Creating great policies is a key foundation for any organization. But the work doesn’t stop there. Once you have those policies, you have to manage them to ensure they’re up to date and are shared with everyone who needs them.

As a leader in your organization, you know that policies, procedures, and processes impact both operations and organizational liability. And a key aspect of that is access. Matthew W. McNamara, the senior manager of the Tactical Training Group for Triple Canopy, wrote about how essential this is in the field of law enforcement.

“Nothing is as important as making sure law enforcement officers receive proper training. Not only does it increase their chances for winning confrontations, the lack of such puts the department at risk of being held liable, according to guidelines set in the 1989 US Supreme Court ruling, City of Canton, Ohio v. Geraldine Harris. Since Canton, one legal scholar has estimated that in the 1990s, law enforcement agencies faced approximately 30,000 lawsuits per year.”

Training is the active work of teaching officers new policies and procedures, but effective training can only take place when those policies are effectively managed, updated, and shared throughout your agency.

This starts with employees having access to updated policies, procedures, and other documents. 

Document access and control is a must for any industry, but it can seem like a daunting task. Maybe you have hundreds, or thousands, of employees and stakeholders to manage. In this article, we’ll explore the issue and look at some of the best practices and available tools that will help you manage this process.

First, in looking at this topic, it’s helpful to break access down into three important types: access for employees, access for you as a leader, and access for stakeholders.

Mobile accessibility for employees

Let’s start at the highest-priority need. Effective access control means that your employees can access the documents they need anytime, anywhere. A worker out in the field, an officer in a squad car, a physician seeing a patient – all of them need access to important documents.

Without that access, employees might not know the correct policy, which puts them at risk and creates a liability issue for your organization.

In this era, fortunately, technology provides some easy solutions. A mobile app allows your workforce to access documents from any device. But not just any app will do. We recommend one with these features:

  • Compatibility with Android and IOS
  • Real-time notifications
  • Powerful search
  • E-signing
  • Document security
  • Document administration

If your organization is still relying on paper or mixed media to manage documents, then access is likely limited, because:

  • Internal shared drives aren’t accessible remotely
  • Email wasn’t designed for file storage or management
  • Binders take too long to sift through

Additionally, you want to be thoughtful in selecting a mobile solution. Solutions such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box do provide remote access but have limited features. When choosing a solution, you need a reliable and organized filing system and powerful search functionality.

And those services also might not be robust enough for accreditation management.

Access management and document control for leaders

As a leader in your organization, you need to be able to oversee and manage your policies and documents quickly and effectively. This requires an organized, automated system.

Without this, you could face a situation in which different versions of a policy – some of them outdated – are floating around in different departments and with different employees. An employee then could act based on that outdated policy. And as we established before, this creates liability for the organization. Version control is one of the most important tools you can have.

As a leader, you have responsibilities over this process. You have to ensure that your policies update automatically, and that they are effectively organized. If you have one cloud-based system to manage your documents, you can make changes and then push those changes to every user.

And, in the event of a lawsuit, you need to be able to easily access documents, including archived ones, and see who viewed those documents, signed them, and received related training.

This is important as a matter of daily operations, but when emergency situations arise it becomes essential.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have struggled to keep up with the shifting regulations and requirements while also updating policies around work from home, sick leave, return to work, and hygiene.

With new and changing government guidelines being issued, it makes it all the more challenging.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fully vaccinated Americans can forgo masks and social distancing in most indoor and outdoor settings. But the Atlanta-based federal agency was silent on how most businesses should handle workers who have opted to skip the vaccine. That leaves it up to companies, which are obligated to provide a safe workplace for their employees, to decide whether they should require workers to get vaccinated or alter masking policies for those who are inoculated.”

Businesses without a centralized, mobile document access control system are forced to make changes on the fly amid a myriad of documents and policies. Whereas those with a strong business continuity plan and a cloud-based access system can ease the burden of uncertainty by making updates and quickly and easily pushing them to employees.

Assigning different levels of access to stakeholders

Often, when you create new documents or update existing ones, this requires review and approval from internal and external stakeholders.

For you as the leader of this process, the key aspect of access control is to be able to assign different levels of access. To dive deeper into this, you can explore this information on workflows and other policy management problems you may be facing.

An effective accessibility tool allows for collaboration with stakeholders across departments. When searching for the right solution, we recommend finding something that allows you or your site administrator to:

  • Create any number of custom groups for employees and key stakeholders
  • Assign different rights, such as View Only, Audit, and Edit

Too important to wait

As you’ve seen, effective document access control is essential in making sure that you, your employees, and your stakeholders have up-to-date policies and documents and can search and edit those documents in a controlled way.

This will help your organization run more smoothly, ensure your employees have the information they need, and protect you from liability. When you search for a solution for you and your organization, keep these must-have features and functionality in mind so you can find a solution that meets your needs.

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