Policies and procedures management is one of the most important parts of your business’s organizational structure, but it can also be one of the most easily overlooked areas, with some companies only focusing on it after the fact, once an issue arises they’re forced to address. Perhaps it’s for this reason that managing policies and procedures can so easily be derailed; organizations simply aren’t giving it the attention it deserves. When that happens, all manner of mistakes can occur.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most pervasive mistakes we see in policies and procedures management. If you realize you’ve seen some of these in your own organization, don’t worry. Only by first identifying the mistakes being made can you take action to create more effective processes moving forward.
The 5 Biggest Policies and Procedures Management Mistakes
1) Failing to Clarify the Most Updated Version
Having multiple versions of a policy or procedure floating around is one of the most common mistakes made in policies and procedures management. Whether a policy is still in the draft stage or it’s been published and available to employees for many years, you need to know which version is the most current. Not only is this important from a productivity standpoint, version management also helps you to minimize unnecessary costs and risks.
However, when something like a version is not defined clearly or you do not have a software that helps you manage everything, keeping track of different versions becomes more difficult. If there are multiple versions of a policy draft floating around, determining which language has been approved and which hasn’t becomes a guessing game. If employees are referring to outdated policies and procedures because they aren’t aware there’s a more current version, that poses the risk of noncompliance.
2) Not Centralizing Policy Storage
If there’s a lack of centralized storage for your policies, it can lead to a couple of major problems. First, decentralized policy storage isn’t efficient for searching. If you don’t know where to look for a particular policy or procedure, you could waste an unnecessary amount of time looking everywhere—only to end up with nothing. Second, decentralized storage makes it difficult for employees to locate important documents without jumping through hoops. Employees are busy enough without having to figure out how they can search information that they should be able to access on demand. Third, having policies stored in multiple locations makes policies and procedures management difficult and can increase confusion if a location is missed. If someone checks one version against another and finds that they deviate from one another, that raises questions of validity.
In order to develop a standardized approach to policies management, it’s important that all policy storage is centralized. By centralizing policy storage, you ensure that all employees are referencing the same up-to-date documents when performing tasks. Additionally, employees will find it much easier to locate the information they’re looking for when everything is centralized, making it more likely they’ll adhere to regulatory compliance standards across the entire organization.
3) Not Using the Right Tools for Communication
We use email for everything in the workplace it seems, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for managing policies and procedures. In fact, there are quite a lot of reasons it can be a bad choice. Let’s start with the fact that every time you send out a policy you’re creating multiple versions of that same thing. This can cause confusion and clutter, especially when people try to merge their changes back into the original document after they’ve had a chance to look over it.
As if that weren’t enough, emails are easily lost or forgotten in people’s inboxes. If you’ve shared a policy draft with your stakeholders and subject experts for review and approval, how many of them will actually get around to doing it? Of course when they do finally respond with feedback, the best you can hope for is digging through a confusing email thread to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
While email is great for certain situations, review and approval of policies and procedures is not one of them. You’d be much better off finding an alternate means of collaborating on your policy drafts. By having everyone come together to work on a single document, you’ll be able to track all changes and contain all feedback in one place.
4) Not Reviewing Policies Regularly
Policy and procedure documents aren’t stagnant. They constantly evolve along with industry standards and federal, state, and local regulations. As they evolve, documents need to be updated, old versions need to be archived, and new versions need to be published, disseminated, and tracked. If you leave a policy or procedure sitting on a shelf collecting dust for too long, it will lead to major issues down the road.
On top of that, when you have old documents hanging around without any indication of their status, they can confuse people looking for current policies. It may send the message that a policy was once important but is no longer relevant, which can cause employees to ignore it.
With every policy, you should be setting an auto-review date at which time the policy will be assessed to determine if it should be retired, updated, or re-published as is.
5) Failing to Follow Up Post-Publishing
New policies, procedures, and forms are constantly being drafted and published. But after you publish a new document, how do you make sure it really gets read?
You might assume that if employees have access to the new information on their computers or in their inboxes, they will read it and take this information to heart. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There’s no way to know whether a new policy is being implemented correctly, if at all—which means noncompliance could soon be rampant. In order to ensure that you’ve got everyone reading your new material and acknowledging receipt of it, you need to follow up with employees. Failure to do so will result in not everyone being on the same page and create confusion.
Our Advice? Automate Your Policies and Procedures Management Process
At ComplianceBridge, we believe that managing your company’s policies and procedures shouldn’t be difficult. With our cost-effective compliance software, you can create and distribute policies and procedures that are specific to your organization’s needs. Your users will have the tools they need to create and approve documents, as well as automatic distribution and implantation.
Our rich templating system keeps collaboration between writers easy and organized with collaborative tools like version control, messaging, notifications and approval workflows. We also offer an efficient way to disseminate policies to employees—ensuring they are sent to the groups and individuals they are most important to. To ensure that they don’t just acknowledge new policies and procedures—but actually read them—we have over a dozen metrics you can use to configure comprehension exams. You’ll be able to make them as simple or complex as you require, and you can view and manage the results yourself!
Ready for a better policy management process? Request a demo today!