The Importance of Policy Management

To ensure compliance, limit liability, and maintain a positive reputation, your organization actually needs to enforce its policies.

December 29, 2020

Article highlights
  • Creating your company policies.
  • Ensuring employee attestation.
  • Download a policy template.

Have you ever wondered where your organization would be without its policies?

Having the right policies and procedures in place gives your organization framework for its operations and ensures compliance. An extension of your mission and vision, your policies essentially bring your company’s values to life and ensure your entire organization is on the same page about acceptable conduct.

Creating a solid policy handbook is a good first step, but it’s just that – a first step. After all, if your employees don’t comply, what good are your policies and procedures?

Unfortunately, simply having policies in place isn’t enough; you will need to go the extra mile to manage your policies through their entire life cycle.

To ensure compliance, limit liability, and maintain a positive reputation, your organization actually needs to enforce its policies.

That’s where policy management – the act of creating, maintaining, and communicating your policies – comes in.

The Importance of Policy Management

Managing your policies may seem like a given, but that’s not necessarily the case. As you know, other things come up all the time, putting policy management in the back seat.

Unfortunately, this can result in major safety and legal issues, and even compromise your reputation.

For example, in 2009, a major Arizona police department had issues when its officers weren’t following the department’s immigration policy.

Because the department ultimately didn’t enforce its policies well, they faced a major violation. The resulting lawsuit cost the organization much more than simply managing its policies would have. Plus, the legal issues put the department’s name and reputation in jeopardy.

Of course, every situation is nuanced. There is no real way of knowing the root cause of that specific department’s compliance problems. But had its leaders better communicated its policies to its officers, it could have prevented major issues – and you can do the same.

From having officers sign off on policies to training and testing their understanding of each policy, there are a number of ways to manage your policies more effectively.

As you develop policies of your own, here are a few things to consider each step of the way.

Creating your company policies

As you know, actually writing your policy and procedure manual is the first step to creating a compliant workplace. Remember, since your goal is compliance, you don’t want to overlook any details.

For this reason, consider involving experts in your policy development process.

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Whether you simply enlist Human Resources or bring in an attorney familiar with local, state, and federal laws, having the right people on your team drastically reduces your liability by ensuring you include all the right policies.

But policy management in this beginning phase isn’t just about what you write. How you communicate your policies matters just as much as the content itself.

If you want to safeguard your organization and its employees, it’s important to construct a clear, organized policy manual. Your policies should be easy to navigate, of course – but that doesn’t mean you should take shortcuts.

Try to structure your policy manual as simply as possible without leaving out any important details.

Using a template could help, as could researching other organization’s policies. This will ensure your employees will be able to navigate your policies easily while accessing all the information they need to comply at work.

Distributing your policies to your employees

The next step to effective policy management is communicating and distributing your policies to your team.

If you want your employees to understand and adhere to your policies, they need to have access to them. While stacks of paper and binders may have been effective in the past, it may be time to consider a more efficient method of distribution.

After all, compliance doesn’t just need to happen in the office. Your employees will need to access your policies and procedure manuals on the field and perhaps even from home.

For this reason, paper manuals may be a thing of the past.

If you haven’t considered bringing your policies online with a policy management software, now may be the time. Keeping all your policy documents in one place is a crucial aspect of managing them well.

Not only will you be able to collaborate more efficiently with online document management. Your employees will have fast, easy access to all the documents they need for compliance.

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Ensuring employee attestation

Simply passing out your policy manuals and moving on isn’t enough. To protect your organization in instances of litigation, your employees need to physically sign off on each policy.

But passing out documents to employees can be a tiresome effort – not to mention a waste of paper and other resources.

With the right policy and procedure software, you can seamlessly distribute your documents and have all your employees sign off on the most recent version of every document.

You can also make sure your employees read and sign off on the updated parts of every document rather than wasting time thumbing through old content.

Updating your policies on a regular basis

Because both laws and industry best practices are always evolving, your policy documents likely will, too.

Think of your policy and procedure management process as an ongoing effort. By updating and revising your documents on an ongoing basis, you can ensure your compliance meets the mark.

Of course, if you are updating your documents regularly, you will need to find a way to communicate these changes to your employees.

You can simplify the process of managing your policies through their entire lifecycle with an online management tool, which makes acknowledging all new content with a digital signature is as easy as typing in a username and password.

Training your employees on policies

The next part of managing policies well is training your employees on them.

Having your employees acknowledge they received and read your policy manual is one thing. But you also need to make sure they actually retain and understand the information in your manual.

That’s why training employees on your policies and procedures is so important. If you use an online policy management tool, you can streamline all of your training efforts, simplifying things for everyone.

Of course, online training means you will save money on instructors, materials, printing, and classroom expenses.

You will also save money on overtime costs by allowing your employees to train anytime, at their own pace. Don’t think online training will have a big impact?

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reduced their annual training hours from 36 to 4, thus saving $87,000 in overtime costs.

Testing your employees on policies

To take your policy management endeavor one step further, consider testing your employees on what they learned in training.

There are many overt benefits to testing, both for your employees and for you. With online software, you can create custom tests that measure the impact of your training efforts.

You will be able to take your employees’ results and fill in gaps you may have missed or been more strategic about how you communicate important policies.

When you know what information your employees actually understand and what they don’t, you will save time by putting your focus in the right place moving forward.

Changing your approach

While these practical steps will surely support your compliance efforts, compliance happens from the inside out. That’s why thinking about policies and procedures differently is the most important step to managing them well.

If you as a leader value and comply with your policies – in other words, lead by example – your employees will be much more likely to do the same.

Culture in an organization trickles down from the top, and it’s your responsibility to both enforce and comply with the policies you create.

Think of policy management as an investment of both your time and resources. It may take an effort to manage your policies well, especially since they will change frequently. But by taking the time necessary to ensure compliance across your organization, you are doing yourself and your employees an important favor.

Not only will policy management reduce litigation risk and protect your organization’s reputation.

Managing your policies well will also make your operations smoother, creating a safer – and more enjoyable – workplace for everyone on your team.

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