Well-made policies are more than just documented rules, they should be the basis of every decision an organization makes. They provide clarity on how to achieve the organization’s goals, protect you from accidental violations of the law, and contribute to a positive working environment.
While policy management is undoubtedly important, every organization handles it a little differently — and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there are a few policy lifecycle management practices every organization should follow.
Create A Policy Committee
Why A Policy Committee Is Necessary
Employing a committee to handle the policy management lifecycle is non-negotiable, especially for large or changing organizations. To start, these committees help keep policies on schedule, as experienced committee members will have the knowledge necessary to handle policy management in the most effective way possible.
A policy committee will also ensure that the policies created are aligned with company values and goals. Committee representatives should have an in-depth knowledge of the organization, and accordingly, have a strong understanding of what it’s hoping to accomplish. This understanding will help them make policy decisions that take into account both the organization’s short-term needs and its long-term objectives.
And last, a committee will be better able to manage policies throughout the policy lifecycle. They’ll know what policies are already in existence, enabling them to remove obsolete policies in a timely manner and prevent duplicates from being formed (both of which could lead to confusion, noncompliance, and inconsistencies). Plus, centralizing communications around policies will help ensure that everyone who needs to be is aware of deadlines to review and renew, mitigating the risk of policies lapsing.
Forming a policy committee can be challenging. Who do you choose? What credentials do people need to bring? What type of experience should they have? While some of these answers will vary by company, one thing holds true across the board: you’ll want to involve stakeholders from every department. In doing so, you help make sure that every segment of the organization is accounted for in your policy lifecycle management and that no department slips through the cracks.
On a similar note, you’ll want to make sure that the committee chair has a stake in every department’s policies. This person’s work should span across the organization, and they should see the benefit of every policy being up to date and compliant, not just the policies of one singular department.
You’ll also want to involve employees in the policy creation process, as they’re the ones who will be impacted by them most. When management gathers employee feedback and really listens to their suggestions, employees can gain a sense of ownership over the policies, and when policies feel personal and relevant, people are more likely to follow them.
Standardize Your Workflow
Why A Standardized Workflow Is Necessary
Having a standardized policy lifecycle management workflow can save companies a lot of time. When people don’t have to guess how to go about policy management or scour the Earth for answers, they make fewer mistakes, reducing the amount of time spent correcting course. Plus, a standardized process will help the policy committee make and manage policies in the best way possible, ensuring that they are operating efficiently.
Perhaps even more important than the time standardization saves is the collaboration it permits. When everyone learns and follows the same process for getting things done, they’ll be better able to work together, as they’ll be on the same page every step of the way.
The first step in standardizing the policy lifecycle management process, one that will both save a great deal of time and bolster the organization’s credibility, is creating a policy template. Changes in management, personnel changes, and organizational changes such as a merger can lead to disparities between policies. Luckily, if you follow a policy template, you won’t have to worry so much about this. And as an added bonus, when policies are consistent in terms of font, layout, logo placement, and color, it becomes far easier for new committee members to pick up on the system.
Why Tracking Changes Is Necessary
No matter how thorough your policy lifecycle management process is, questions and disputes still may arise. When they do, it’s imperative that you know exactly what actions have been taken on a policy, as this will create a sense of accountability among policymakers.
In order to create accountability, it’s important to document everything. You’ll want to know exactly what changes have been made, who made them, when they made them, and why. This will help ascertain that you’re using the most up-to-date version of the policies and that the people in charge of making changes have done so.
Make Policies A Central Source of Truth
Why Having A Central Source Of Truth Is Necessary
When everyone is working off of the same documents, things tend to run smoother; there’s less miscommunication, fewer mistakes, and a reduction in accidental noncompliance, as everyone is basing decisions on the same information. Plus, having a central source of truth for policies will save employees time since they won’t have to look around for the most updated, accurate version.
For an organization to get the most out of its policies, everyone needs to know where to find the most recent iteration. It can help to store policies in a centralized library, particularly one that allows for version stacking, as this will ensure that everyone is viewing the most current version (while still allowing them to refer back to old policies if needed).
Let ComplianceBridge Streamline Your Organization’s Policy Lifecycle Management
These best practices can go a long way, but there’s always room for improvement – especially if you aren’t yet utilizing policy management software. ComplianceBridge offers automated workflows streamlining policy creation, revision, approval, distribution, and reporting. Committee members can collaborate on the same document, and the software will automatically notify you if a task needs to be completed or the time has come to review. The policies are stored in a centralized library accessible from anywhere with internet access, you can link the policies to relevant documents, and because ComplianceBridge offers version stacking, you can easily find every iteration of the policy.
Ready for a better policy management process? Request a demo today!