The importance of policy tracking software

Without efficient tools for managing your policies and procedures, it can be a nightmare to track policies across their lifecycle and track employee signatures on each one.

December 23, 2020

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Company policies do more than protect your employees. They protect the public, partners, vendors, and the organization itself. The most effective policies are written with the latest understanding of technology, society, and your industry or field. They (should) rely on the latest scientific research, governmental regulations, and federal, state, and local laws.

As a result, it's critical that every employee within the organization is aware of, has read, and understands all the policies that govern your organization and affect your accreditation. In some cases, it's required by law that your employees attest that they have read and understood those policies. In other cases, your organization's accreditation requires that same acknowledgment.

And you need to be able to quickly and easily track whether your employees have done so.

The trouble is tracking policies, updates, and signatures can be time-consuming, costly, and difficult. And the law or your accrediting agency doesn't recognize "I ran out of time" as a viable excuse.

This is where policy tracking software can make a big difference in how easily you're able to share updates and track employee signatures.

This article will show you the challenges of policy tracking, what could happen when you don't track updates, and how policy tracking software can help your organization immensely.

Common challenges of policy tracking

Most organizations have policies that address nearly every situation. The larger your organization is, the more policies you have. And if you've got hundreds or thousands of people working in various locations across the country or around the globe, you realize how difficult it is to track all those updates and whether people have read them.

In some instances, organizations will sometimes have one or two people whose sole purpose is policy management.

Imagine trying to manually track all those policies, as employees flood your inbox with email replies that say, "Yes, I have received and read the new policy" (especially when they haven't), or worse, trying to go through those emails to see who has not replied yet.

When you're going through the accreditation or certification process, and you're trying to ensure that everyone has gone through the necessary training and taken the self-assessments, you can see why it's a problem. If you're in a high-liability or highly regulated industry, it's more important and even more complex.

It's hard to believe in the 21st century, but some companies are still handling their policy tracking with paper sign-in sheets, email, spreadsheets, or SharePoint. These manual processes are often riddled with errors, duplicate data, and incomplete information. That makes them unreliable, which exposes the organization to potential lawsuits, sanctions, and even a loss of accreditation.

Consequences of bad policy tracking

So what happens if you can't track whether an employee has read and signed a policy? Industry news abounds with stories of employee lawsuits claiming they were fired because they "didn't know" about a certain policy or that they weren't notified about new updates to certain procedures.

With the old methods of policy tracking, how can you prove it? Did they read the document you emailed them? Do you still have the email acknowledgment that they read it, or did you accidentally delete it? And how do you know if they actually read the updates you sent out six months ago?

If the answer's not on your spreadsheet or sign-in log, you can't prove that they did read the policy or attend the training, which means your company may have a hard time defending itself.

How do you know whether your employees are performing their jobs the way they're supposed to? Are they following all the steps in a process? Are they using the right tools to get a job done, or are they taking safety shortcuts? And do you know if they know?

This not only leads to inconsistent results, but it can expose your company and your employees to different risks, including financial, legal, and reputational. You could be sued for malpractice or negligence, you could be fined by a regulatory body, or your reputation could take a hit in the public arena after a worker's wrongdoing. 

Not tracking policies can also cause labor and staffing issues. The HR department will constantly be fielding complaints and dealing with issues that could have been handled if everyone just knew what the policy was supposed to be.

Benefits of policy tracking software

There are several organizational benefits to using policy tracking software in your organization.

For one thing, it helps you improve corporate culture. You're following the industry's best practices, everyone is receiving consistent information, and following procedures consistently. And the widespread adoption of these policies and practices will have a benefit on your organizational culture.

It also builds accountability. That doesn't mean a strict set of rules that everyone is forced to follow. Rather, it helps your associates keep each other accountable because everyone will know what is expected of them. Plus they know that they signed the policy, verifying they understood it, which increases personal responsibility. This helps everyone work toward the organization's goals, which benefits everyone.

Policy tracking software will build an audit trail of your old policies. You can track activity on your documents, including all the revisions. You'll know what changes have been made, who made them, and when they were made. This helps you keep track of whether you're using the latest versions of your policy documents, and whether the people tasked with updating them have made those changes.

You can track signatures so you'll know when employees have read the policies and updates, and acknowledged that fact. This helps you if you ever have to track that information down for accreditation or legal purposes. You can see at a glance if anyone is missing a signature or if someone has not received the most recent updates. You can also use signature tracking to see when people have completed training modules and self-assessment tests.

You can also easily prove compliance with accreditation standards. Rather than spending months compiling all the necessary forms and trying to track down missing signatures and assessment scores, you'll have all that information at your fingertips and can share it with the accreditation team even before they show up for their evaluations.

Finally, you can reduce the risk of liability. With a policy tracking solution, you can see if policies have been read and whether the various forms have been signed. You can even send automated reminders to people until they sign everything. With these signatures, the company can defend itself in court if an employee ever says, "But I never received that policy."

What to look for in policy tracking software

Here are some of the key features your policy tracking software should include. Get the full list of features you need here.

  • Cloud-based policy tracking. Policies locked away in a filing cabinet or one computer don't do anyone any good. Cloud-based policy tracking software, such as PowerDMS, lets you organize, share, store, and review policies.
  • Secure, central repository. You need to keep your policies and procedures secure so only those who are authorized can have access to it. This also means you need role-based security, so you can specify the type of access your employees have.
  • Robust reporting and dashboards. Reporting should happen on two levels: for management and employees. Managers need to be able to see the progress employees have made on reading and signing off on policies. This way, they can see who isn't completing their tasks and take steps to address that. Employees also need to be aware of what's being asked of them. They shouldn't have to guess when a policy has changed or when they should take action.
  • Version tracking. You need this feature to keep track of both policies and employee signatures. PowerDMS can track older versions of policies and their updates, as well as track which versions employees have signed and when they signed them. It should also let you do a side-by-side comparison of document versions so you can see what has and hasn't changed.
  • Automated reminders and alerts. Your policy tracking software, with its document management workflows, should save you time and effort in tracking everything manually. It can remind managers to review updates and remind employees to sign policies. No more manually tracking of tasks that others are supposed to complete.
  • Mobile ready. Remote employees and people who work in the field have regular access to their mobile phones, but maybe not a laptop and wifi. So look for policy tracking software that's mobile-ready and can be accessed on cell phones and tablets.
  • Training tracking. Tracking policies are only part of the compliance equation. Training to those policies and procedures is an important part of the policy life cycle, as well as accreditation compliance. You need to be able to train to new policies as well as demonstrate their completion for your accreditation reviews. 

PowerDMS offers market-leading version control features that simplify compliance audits. The platform can track the complete history of every document, including changes, reviews, approval comments, status, and signature history.

We also store and track who has read, signed, edited, and approved each version of a document, which helps with accreditation compliance and risk management.

If you’d like to learn how PowerDMS can protect your organization from the consequences of bad policy tracking, schedule a no-obligation call today.

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