An often overlooked factor of a successful compliance management system is policy distribution. The method your company chooses to deliver documents to employees has a surprising impact on issues such as audits, compliance and costs associated with policy management.
There are several methods to choose from; among them are traditional distribution using paper policies, emailing policies, and adopting a policy and procedure software. No matter which method your company opts to use, you should critically examine the pros and cons of each to decide if it will be effective for your workplace.
Despite advancements in technology, many companies still rely on this method of policy distribution. It can seem simple and easy to print all documents and store them in a binder for staff to have open access to, and many companies don’t see the need to update this system.
Accessibility: Printed copies are always available to employees without the need of technology. This can be helpful for employees who are out in the field or in the event of a network outage.
Distribution: It is relatively easy, even for a small company with no HR department or formal compliance management system to print and distribute policies to staff. They can either distribute policies individually to each employee as they are released or store policies in a binder that employees can access when necessary.
Organization: As policies inevitably require revision and updating, replacing older policies can prove to be difficult, and some people may not be aware of the changes. Documents are also easy to misplace, either in a binder or folder among other policies, or perhaps the entire set of policy documents can get lost in the daily chaos of an office environment.
Communication: There is no guarantee new policies and versions have been effectively communicated to each staff member. There is also usually a limited number of copies available for the staff, so policies may not always be available when and where they’re needed most. Lastly, depending on the manner your company opts to organize and store its policies, it can be difficult to introduce new policies to a targeted audience amongst staff, especially if policies are organized in one central location.
Compliance: Printed copies are actually a hindrance on your company’s compliance management system. In the event of an audit or accident, it will become necessary for your company to prove compliance to the policies by which the staff claims to adhere. With no solid record of when employees read and acknowledged such policies, it may be impossible to prove adequate communication of policies. If your company decides to have each employee sign off to prove acknowledgement, these signatures will have to be recorded and tracked manually.
Cost: At first glance, traditional document management seems like the cheapest option. However, a small business will on average spend almost $2,000 a month just filing, retrieving, and searching for documents, according to Scan123.
If your company is currently emailing copies of policies to employees, then your workplace is, at the very least, beginning to see the downside of paper distribution. A compliance management system functioning through email still falls short in many areas, though.
Cost-effective: Digitally sending and storing company policies saves on the typical costs of printed distribution such as paper and ink. Moreover, if your company stores the policies on a cloud service such as Google Drive, policies will take much less time to locate and will be easily accessible by employees.
Audience Targeting: Emailing copies to employees makes it considerably easier to target the specific audience who needs to be notified of a given policy. Only those employees that the policy was sent to will ever read it, and management won’t need to worry about any accidental breaches.
Organization: You can expect most employees to have cluttered, overflowing inboxes. Given that, choosing this route of distribution may result in policies that are not properly read before being lost. Organizing multiple versions and related documentation for policies will also still be an undertaking for the employees who must maintain the upkeep of the system.
Communication: The same problem that exists with communicating paper policies still exists with their emailed counterparts. It can be difficult to communicate new versions effectively, and there is no guarantee that the policies were read and comprehended by staff. These communication issues lead to a breakdown in compliance.
Compliance: The nature of email does lend to better tracking of delivery to employees, but determining acknowledgement – and therefore comprehension – is still carried out manually, through sign-offs. Tracking acknowledgement in this manner is very costly for a company. Beyond the financial costs and time associated with it, manual tracking leaves room for human error and neglect.
Policy & Procedure Software
Policy and procedure software keeps every aspect of your compliance management system, from policy creation to policy management, well organized and efficient.
Organization: Policy distribution can be an especially chaotic point in the policy creation process, and software has the tools to keep the process ordered. All of your company’s policies are stored in a central, cloud-based location where employees have access only to policies that pertain to them. Important documents, regulations or forms can be linked to certain policies, as well. New versions and updates of policies are also well documented and apparent to staff. They will always see the most up-to-date language.
Accessibility: Since all of your company policies are stored on the web, staff will have easy access to them. This central location will be exclusively for policy related documents and forms, making it simple and fast to locate the policy they’re looking for.
Communication: Where manually distributing policies physically or digitally can make effectively communicating details hard, software will automatically notify and remind employees of new policies and updates, so they stay current on compliance issues. Acknowledgement and comprehension is also automatically recorded and tracked. In the event of an audit or accident, your company can prove effective distribution and communication.
Compliance: Policy and procedure software is created with the mission of improving the compliance management system companywide. Built-in features will not only request and track acknowledgement from employees, but it will ensure comprehension of new policies through exams. In the event of an audit or incident, all of this information has been securely logged and can be quickly accessed. Being able to promptly prove compliance is a valuable asset for a company.
Cost: Considering pricing as a con is somewhat relative. A compliance management system with so much functionality will not come free, but it will be much cheaper the the cost of manually organizing and distributing policies and procedures. This type of software will also save employees valuable time and energy to focus on other responsibilities of their jobs.
Bonus: Public Portal
Policy management software such as TotalCompliance from ComplianceBridge can allow your company to distribute policies via a public portal feature. This allows unrestricted access to particular content on the web.
Accessibility: A public portal requires no user login or password to view published documents and forms. The company can even embed the portal onto their website. This will make content available to all web users who visit the website. A public portal is an ideal solution for content intended to reach a broad audience.
Action Tracking: A public portal makes distributing content to a wide audience possible, but in doing so, it will be impossible to track end-user actions relating to these documents. Of course, user actions do not always need to be tracked, especially when the content is designed for public consumption.
TotalCompliance Knows How to Distribute Policies
TotalCompliance offers an array of tools for fast, organized and efficient policy distribution. Among them are access control, notifications, reminders, version control and exams. Policy stakeholders have the opportunity to build and customize these exams to test understanding of new policies. Over a dozen test metrics allow you to configure exams to be as simple as yes/no questions or as difficult as fill-in-the-blank. You can also require a digital signature as proof of acknowledgement.
If you’re wondering if TotalCompliance from ComplianceBridge can shore up your company’s compliance management system, learn more and request a demo today.