Policy Review Process Best Practices in Higher Ed

Policy Review Process Best Practices in Higher Ed

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on June 6, 2022

Whether you’re going back and forth with stakeholders to finish drafting an initial version of a new policy, you’re in the process of having your policy committee review a new policy draft and recommend changes, or you’re finally ready to open it up for public comments and questions, the process for reviewing policies in higher ed is almost never fast nor straightforward. Usually, it requires a knack for coordinating with many different individuals and groups at once, the ability to transform feedback into action items, and a whole heap of patience. 

No matter where a policy is in the review process, there are steps you can take as a policy administrator to ensure everyone comes away satisfied that they were able to participate and have their voices heard. By following these policy review process best practices below, not only do you help the process to be more enjoyable for others, you make it easier for yourself to manage. 

Policy Review Process Best Practices

1. Embrace Version Control

Before a policy draft is finalized and sent onto the policy officer or committee for review, it faces a flurry of discussions and edits. During this time, policy language is written, reviewed, and revised countless times until everyone is satisfied with the final product. If you’ve ever been responsible for writing a policy, you know just how fast things can get out of hand at this stage once stakeholders start downloading and making changes to their own versions of the draft policy. Suddenly, there are multiple drafts of a policy, all a little different, and it’s increasingly difficult to make sure everybody is looking at the exact same document.

To save yourself from the headache the above scenario will cause, use an online document creation tool that allows everybody from writers, editors, and reviewers to access a central policy draft. Here they can make revisions, suggest changes, and provide any other feedback. With a central draft, you won’t need to worry that one of your stakeholders isn’t seeing the most current version or that somebody’s feedback or changes have been lost. 

2. Get Out of Email

We understand how important email is to communication on college campuses; it would be impossible to eliminate it completely and still get work done. That being said, email is not always the clearest or most efficient form of communication, especially in the policy review process. In fact, email can be blamed for creating the “multiple versions” problem described above. 

If you’re emailing your policy draft to others, you’ll likely be receiving their feedback the same way. As the email chains stretch longer and longer, their suggestions and comments become harder to track down, your role playing babysitter for the policy takes up more of your time, and everyone becomes more frustrated with the process. And that’s if they see your email and respond to it. Your colleagues have a lot going on; relying on email alone may result in the process taking weeks longer than it could’ve and reduce the level of engagement you’d like to see. 

To help take some of the policy review process out of your email inbox, you need to invest in a policy management platform with review capabilities. In addition to version control management, you’ll want to have the ability to notify stakeholders when it’s time for them to review and provide feedback and to schedule automated reminders to send out until they respond. 

3. Map It Out

How does your policy review process look? After a draft is complete, you likely have a policy officer or compliance officer review for structure, conflicts with other policies or regulations, and clarity. Then, you probably send it to someone like the provost, vice provost, or chancellor for review. Maybe your process also involves a policy committee or the president’s council. Once a policy has passed all of these hurdles, your school might opt to have a public commenting period. If every type of policy followed the same workflow, this might be somewhat manageable, but that’s not usually the case. Often, the policy review process in higher ed can follow any number of pathways. 

One of the policy review process best practices you can implement right now to help make sense of the multiple levels of review is mapping it out. This helps everyone involved in the process better understand their roles and responsibilities, determine which workflow a policy needs to use, visualize the correct order of events, and anticipate how long the process should take. 

4. Don’t Fear Innovation

It’s not always easy for higher ed institutions to upgrade or otherwise make changes to their policy management efforts. First, you must take a hard look at your budget and determine what kinds of solutions are even possible. Then, you have to find something that will fit in your budget and provide the functionality you need. Once you’ve found the best solution and had that voice approved, the job still isn’t over. Now, you have to onboard everybody to this new system and transition your workflows accordingly. It’s not an exaggeration to say this process can take years (months) to complete, an overwhelming prospect to say the least. 

That being said, innovating your policy review process to include more automation and efficiency will only benefit you moving forward. If you’re ready to overhaul your review process, don’t be afraid to go for it. To ensure success, look for a policy management solution that will be able to support you throughout, whether that’s demoing the software for stakeholders as many times as necessary, committing to trainings until everyone feels comfortable with the technology, or helping you import your existing policy library. Innovation in policy management may sound like a herculean task, but when you have the right people supporting you on the journey, success is all but guaranteed.

Put These Policy Review Process Best Practices to the Test

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 a policy draft, 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. You can even develop multiple workflows for all your committees. All review and commenting takes 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 wondering if the policy review process best practices we mentioned above are really going to help you, we encourage you to put them to the test. ComplianceBridge will be with you every step of the way, helping you build review processes everyone will be satisfied with. To see how our software works in action, request a demo today.

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