Policy management doesn’t just happen, it takes careful planning, hours of policy writing (and rewriting), and regular review to ensure things run as smoothly as possible. When handled well, the process results in company-wide knowledge of essential information, full compliance with regulatory standards, and it removes the guesswork from employees’ day-to-day activities. However, when the policy management lifecycle isn’t handled with care, chaos can ensue. No one knows what’s expected of them, laws are broken left and right, and the company operates at a fraction of the efficiency it has the potential to.
Accordingly, the importance of company policies is well understood, but we tend to glaze over one critical piece. Policy maintenance isn’t just another box to check off, it’s an essential component of the policy management lifecycle.
Why Is Policy Maintenance Necessary?
Every piece of the policy management lifecycle is necessary, but we tend to overlook arguably the most important – maintenance. Regulations change, best practices are updated, and your priorities may shift, so, you want to make sure your policies match what’s needed in the present moment, not what was needed years prior when the policies were created. That’s why this final phase of policy management is ongoing – to ensure your policies are just as effective as the day they were created (if not more so).
So, what exactly is policy maintenance? In short, it’s the regular review of existing policies against the business objectives and the relevant regulatory requirements driving the policy. During this stage, you might ask how effective the policy is, if it needs to be revisited, if it’s still applicable, and if it should be continued, edited, or discarded altogether.
What You Should Do During The Maintenance Phase Of The Policy Management Lifecycle
Monitor For Compliance
One of the first steps to take during the maintenance phase is determining whether or not the policy is still effective at helping the organization meet regulatory, legal, and industry requirements. To do this, you’ll need to look at the relevant requirements and assess if they have had any changes since the policy was last reviewed. Then, take note of any instances of noncompliance or policy violations that may have occurred during the period. It’s best to keep track of these things because if there were issues with compliance, it may be a sign that the policy needs a rewrite.
Noncompliance puts organizations at an increased risk of fines and penalties, security breaches, legal action against the company, loss of licenses, and even prison time for the violators. In addition, noncompliance could get in the way of providing quality care for your customers, patrons, or patients. This could in turn damage the organization’s reputation, as people may be hesitant to trust a company that, say, didn’t adequately protect their credit card information, causing them to suffer financial losses.
Perform Regular Reviews
If regulations change, certain policies may need to be reviewed immediately for compliance purposes, but even if they don’t, it’s still important to review policies at least once a year. This will not only help prevent outdated policies from staying in circulation, but ensure that the policies in place are still relevant. During the review phase of the policy management lifecycle, the policy team should ask: Is the goal of the policy still being met? Are there any changes you could make to clarify or improve the effectiveness of the policy? Do you have the education, training, and access to information necessary to ensure everyone is able to follow the policy as best as possible?
If, after reviewing the policy, you decide it needs to be updated, there are a few key steps to follow. First, get clarity on why you need an update in the first place, as this will help give you direction when you make recommendations. If only a minor revision is needed, one that doesn’t affect the scope or application of a policy, you may be able to implement the change on your own (assuming you have permission and support from the organization). However, substantive revisions, those that do alter the scope or application of the policy, will require you to assemble a policymaking team, and when you do, be sure to include people from multiple levels and every relevant department (accounting, human resources, legal, etc.).
Archive Outdated Versions
The last step in the maintenance phase of the policy management lifecycle is to archive outdated versions, as this will ensure that the full history of the policy is available if regulators come asking or if it’s ever needed for reference. When doing so, be sure to document who wrote the policy, who reviewed and approved it, what training was given to employees, and detailed accounts of any compliance issues.
In addition to archiving outdated versions of a policy, it’s also important to keep records of policies that have been terminated. A policy could be terminated if it’s redundant, accomplished, no longer relevant, or ineffective, but regardless, storing these policies in your archive will help make sure you always have the information you need.
Manage Every Stage Of The Policy Lifecycle In One Place With ComplianceBridge
ComlianceBridge can help you better manage your policies throughout every stage of your policy management lifecycle. With automated workflows, you can streamline policy creation, revision, approval, distribution, and reporting. There are built-in review dates, expiration dates, and reminders so that no policy goes forgotten, and everyone involved in the policy creation process can collaborate together on one document. Of course, a policy is only effective if you can access it, so our software makes doing so easy. Current policies will be saved in a centralized library, ensuring that everyone who needs them can view them, and when the time comes to retire a version, you can store it in a lifetime archive indefinitely.
Are you ready to streamline your policy management with affordable, comprehensive software? Request a demo of ComplianceBridge today!