For universities and colleges, developing a policy framework lays the foundation for the entire policy management infrastructure. You may be thinking that if you already have tools such as templates and a style guide, taking the time to create a policy framework is unnecessary. `What more could a policy framework really do for you? Quite a lot.
A policy framework defines the principles, scope, and lifecycle for all of an institution’s policies and procedures. Rather than harping on the finer details of how each policy should be drafted and reviewed, your framework directs the overall planning and development of institutional policy management. Without one in place, your policy management efforts will simply not be as effective as they otherwise could be.
If your school wants to create a systemic approach to policy development that unifies development, review, and management, developing a policy framework is the place to start.
A Policy Framework Does Some Heavy-Lifting
Having a framework in place helps everybody understand what they should (and shouldn’t) do throughout the policy lifecycle. It outlines behavioral expectations and empowers individuals with the knowledge, guidance, and flexibility they need to perform their day-to-day roles and responsibilities as they relate to policy management. On the other hand, it also reduces institutional risk by ensuring activities are constrained within the set parameters of the policy framework.
With a framework in place, you can expect:
- Consistent governance: A clear and consistent governance and management approach will be adopted throughout policy development.
- Compliance: You’ll be able to facilitate compliance with relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.
- Effective decision-making: You’ll be able to efficiently and effectively make decisions, incorporating quality assurance and risk management practices.
- Clear roles and responsibilities: Clear roles and responsibilities will be established for individuals and groups in the development, review, and approval of policies and procedures.
For policy administrators who are often under pressure to balance consistency, flexibility, compliance requirements, and administrative obligations, a policy framework relieves them of some of the burden by creating a more proactive model for policy development. If that sounds amazing to you, you’re likely asking how you should develop a framework of your own.
Developing a Policy Framework in 4 Steps
1. Define objectives, scope, and rules for all policies
Objectives: These are essentially the goals you want to set for all of your policies and procedures. They should be broadly applicable and achievable. Some examples include:
- To make sure all policies align with your institutional strategy and reflect good governance practice
- To safeguard the integrity and delivery of high quality education, research and engagement
- To support the management of institutional risk and compliance with regulatory requirements
Scope: You need to establish where your framework applies: on a single campus, on multiple campuses, etc. You should also take a moment to clarify which laws and regulations for which your policy framework is bound.
Rules and guidelines: This is where you can start getting into the practical ins and outs of policy management. Begin by defining what a policy is: a concise, formal, and mandatory statement of rules that outline the institution’s position on governance, academic, or operational matters. Then, establish how policy development and review will be handled. State whether policies must be developed with templates, if and how stakeholders must be consulted, how policies must be written (avoid jargon, use plain speech, etc.), if stakeholders are or aren’t allowed to delegate or reassign their responsibilities, etc. If you aren’t sure where to begin, envision how you want the process to unfold and what mistakes or pitfalls you’d like to avoid.
2. Categorize policies and determine their approval workflows
In order to determine the approval process for a policy, you must first create policy categories. Examples of categories could include Academic policies, Operational policies, or Governance policies. Within these categories, you could also have sub-categories. For instance, under Academic policies, you could have Education policies that cover issues like scholarships and academic probation, and you could also have Research policies that cover applying for research grants or handling research data.
With each category and sub-category, you should establish a workflow that policy coordinators can refer to during review and approval. Not only will review move along much faster, everybody will know exactly what their responsibility is. If anybody is wondering which policies the vice provost needs to approve, it’ll be right there in writing.
3. Outline roles and responsibilities
On the subject of responsibility, it’s also important that the policy framework identifies all the individuals responsible for ensuring a policy comes to fruition. After all, even when you have a framework, you need to make sure someone is there to administer it. In particular, make sure you answer questions like:
- What is the policy/compliance office responsible for? Applying the policy framework across your institution for all policy development, review and implementation efforts.
- What do policy owners need to do? Facilitate and oversee implementation of the applicable policy rules, and ensure that policy development and review are undertaken in accordance with the policy framework.
- What do policy writers need to do? They’re responsible for the drafting and consultation of policies in collaboration with both the policy office and the policy owner.
4. Determine ongoing policy management efforts
We all understand that the work isn’t over once a policy is approved. That’s why the final step in developing a policy framework for your university should concern your ongoing policy management efforts. You must determine:
- How records associated with the development, consultation, review, and approval of a policy draft will be gathered and kept
- How policies will be published after they’ve been approved
- How the policy library should be managed
- How often policies and procedures should be reviewed
- The process for making updates to existing policies and procedures
- What happens to retired policies
Bring Your Policy Framework into the Digital Age
Developing a policy framework is one thing, but administering it—especially at a college or university responsible for maintaining a robust network of policies and procedures—can be a whole other ball game. Luckily, ComplianceBridge is uniquely suited for higher ed. Our platform supports the complete policy lifecycle, from writing to review and approval and beyond, making it easy for stakeholders to collaborate on policy drafts, make revisions, share with the right reviewers, and ultimately, disseminate with the wider university community.
During the drafting phase, everyone will be able to access and work on a central version of the document, eliminating the issues that arise when there are multiple versions floating around. To make things even easier, you can create and save policy templates to use in the future, so policy writers won’t need to go hunt them down.
During review, you can configure automated workflows that take all the pressure off you to make sure everyone is seeing the policy draft in the order they’re supposed to. All review and commenting take place inside our system, as well, so you don’t need to navigate confusing email threads anymore. Notifications keep everyone informed throughout the process as changes are made, and automated reminders ensure no one misses their opportunity to review and approve. All of this activity will be logged in our system, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of it on your own.
Once approved, it only takes one click to publish a new policy to your public portal, making it easily accessible on the web for anyone who needs it at any time. You can even customize it to align with your institution’s branding and colors.
If you’re worried that developing a policy framework will just create more work for you and your colleagues, don’t be. With ComplianceBridge, managing policies has never been easier or faster. To see how our software works in action, request a demo today.