Formal policies and procedures are a laborious but necessary part of any company. They provide tangible proof of your values and how activities should be carried out within your organization so that they align with those values. If you haven’t committed any resources to developing written policies and procedures – or if you have a disorganized, inadequate policy library – you’ll never truly be able to streamline the day-to-day processes or cultivate a cohesive work environment to support them.
However, even if you have an extensive policy library, without a policy management framework in place, your policy management efforts will not be as effective as they otherwise could be, even if you already have a central repository. A policy framework guides the development of policies and procedures to ensure they are both consistent and user friendly for employees. It’s essentially a policy that thoroughly lays out the strategy for creating, communicating and managing your documents, so there’s never any question about what needs to be done.
When you have a coordinated cross-departmental approach for policy management, policies and training will be understood and managed as an integrated whole rather than a fragmented collection of parts. So, what should your policy management framework consist of?
The Key Elements of Your Framework
The goal of your framework is to ensure that policies are appropriately developed, implemented, monitored and reviewed regularly across your company. In addition to calling for the creation of a maintained policy management system – if one does not already exist – it should make all policies subject to a formal approval process, not just just high-level policies or those from a specific department.
A policy management framework should also account for changes in a company’s operating environment, such as the introduction of new or updated legislation, industry and other standards and community expectations. By making sure you know how to respond to these events now, you’ll be able to more effectively develop new policies and procedures that keep you in compliance. Besides making you more efficient overall, this puts you in a better position to achieve your organizational mission and goals.
You can divide your policy framework into three sections:
Policy Hierarchy: A hierarchy lays out the different documentation that defines and governs your activities, listed in order of precedence.
Policy Development Process: This is where you define the requirements for creating policies and procedures, including the policy lifecycle and document templates.
Policy Roles and Responsibilities: You have the opportunity to clarify who is involved in the process of developing policies and what they do. You should also determine who has the authority to approve policies and procedures for publication and distribution.
Every company and organization is structured a bit differently with its own internal and external forces influencing how the components of a policy management framework are organized. Typically, though, the top of the hierarchy is where you will find any laws and regulations that govern your industry and business. These will supersede any other rules employees are subject to.
Below laws and regulations, you’ll find a company’s code of conduct. This is called different things for different organizations. Some refer to it as a declaration, a constitution, a creed, bylaws or a charter. This set of rules defines a company’s culture norms and how employees should act on a daily basis, and any new policies or procedures should align with it.
Below the code of conduct, you’ll find policies. These can cover more high-level matters such as setting controls that support performance outcomes, company-wide policies that affect everyone such as an employee travel policy, or more specific policies that apply to a specific area, such as an HR policy. Below policies, procedures explain practically how policies will be applied. At the base of your policy hierarchy, you’ll find other supporting documentation: forms, manuals, handbooks, guidelines and more.
Policy Development and Lifecycle
This is the point in your policy management framework when you are able to get into the nitty gritty details of creating policy and procedures. Before you define your process, take a moment to consider why you make policies and procedures in the first place. What are the triggers that prompt a new policy or procedure? Triggers may include new legislation, changes in your community or operational environment or a reevaluation of your company culture and strategic direction.
The policy lifecycle can be readjusted to fit your own needs, but generally, the development and revision of policies and procedures will comprise of these key stages:
Style Guide and Templates: In order to standardize your policies and procedures and improve employee comprehension, creating a style guide and policy templates should definitely be a part of your framework. If you take the time to create these resources now, you’ll streamline policy creation, promote consistency, reduce the risk of errors or mistakes and save money in the long run.
What Everyone Needs to Do
Facilitating effective policy management requires someone to be the clear authority for the formulation of policy and procedure documents, someone to own the process and manage the policy writers, subject matter experts, reviewers, administrators and anyone else brought into the process. For each policy or group of policies, the policy owner may be different, but your policy management framework should still explain who these individuals are and policy owners are to be assigned.
Your framework should also provide guidance regarding the responsibilities of each role and explain how each individual effects how policy is created, approved and disseminated. For example, the role of a policy writer is to draft a new policy, utilizing the data collected and information provided by any identified subject matter experts. A policy committee may be constructed of your reviewers and other stakeholders to review new policy and offer revisions. An approval authority is the individual(s) responsible for giving final approval. A system editor manages the policy management platform.
There could be additional policy roles you may want to consider as you map out your policy management framework, as well. The goal is simply to ensure that everyone you bring into the process is aware of their duties and how they will impact policy management.
Your Policy Management Framework Isn’t Complete Without TotalCompliance
TotalCompliance supports the complete policy lifecycle, from conception to distribution and beyond, providing stakeholders with the tools they need to create and approve new documents and automating distribution and implementation.
Among the tools it gives policy creators, TotalCompliance provides a rich templating system that keeps collaboration between writers easy and organized. Collaborative tools include version control, messaging, notifications and approval workflows.
The platform also offers 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 – TotalCompliance has 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.
Can TotalCompliance play a valuable role in your policy management framework? Request a demo with ComplianceBridge to see our policy and procedure management software in action for yourself.