Policy Review Process: What Works and What Needs to Change?

Policy Review Process: What Works and What Needs to Change?

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on December 5, 2022

Drafting a policy is only the beginning of the process of enacting that policy within your business. After creation there exists another, equally vital step that cannot afford to get lost in the shuffle: the policy review process. Whether it’s an existing policy in need of an update or one still pending approval, creating a strong review process ensures that your organization remains current, compliant, and competitive. 

Understanding best practices for a successful review process can feel overwhelming. Luckily with a little forethought and planning, there are ways to streamline and automate the policy review process. 

What is the Policy Review Process? 

The process of reviewing a policy for clarity and compliance isn’t always one with a set time in the larger policy management framework. Policy review can happen prior to initial policy approval, but is also often necessary to do periodically after publishing to ensure that all information within is still accurate, applicable, and up-to-date. While this article will primarily address the former, these practices can also be employed when evaluating existing policies. 

What is vital to a good review process? A useful and productive policy review process will invite all relevant company stakeholders. Depending on the nature of the policy in question, this could include anyone from the legal team, to operations, to the accounting department. Inviting this collaboration eradicates problems that could come up when enacting the policy if relevant parties are not consulted; if you push through a document that hasn’t been fully vetted, you could be creating problems for yourself in the future, up to and including potential legal issues. 

You should think of policy review as being both an additive and reductive process. On the one hand, you could be adding more information, defining certain terms, or creating visual aids to help better explain a concept. On the other hand, policy review should also work like a filter. What works in a policy draft? Figure that out, and then remove what doesn’t. Your focus should be on removing ineffective policy language and refining concepts in order to reach a level of specificity and clarity that works for your organization. The ultimate goal is to end with a policy that will have a positive overall impact on and for your company.

Let’s Talk Organization 

Mandating a ‘good’ policy review process is easier said than done, and organization is key to the process. Remember that while the ultimate goal of the review process is approval, the review itself should be an active process. In each stage, involved parties should be carefully reading through the policy and providing well-thought-out feedback, not simply viewing their participation as a box to check. By breaking down the review process into stages, you can better organize and manage the feedback you receive. If you allow review to become a free-for-all, things are bound to slip through the cracks. 

The policy review process is not a solo endeavor! All groups affected by a policy should have an opportunity to give their input. This includes those to whom the policy applies directly, those who have any role in the policy’s execution, and those monitoring the policy. They are all relevant stakeholders and should be included as reviewers. At least one stage of this process should include experts on the subject matter. Also, it is generally always best practice to have someone from your legal team look over a proposed policy or updates made to an existing policy, to make absolutely sure that it doesn’t violate any laws or regulations you may have missed. 

Ultimately, the review and approval process should take place at a level that corresponds with the applicability of the policy being reviewed. If the policy affects an entire organization, it should be approved at a high level of seniority by an individual or group with both an organization-wide perspective and an appropriate knowledge of the subject matter. If a policy only impacts a specific department, then it likely doesn’t require approval at a high level. As a policy management team, you should work together to map out the review and approval workflows for each type of policy you develop. 

What to Watch Out For 

Once you’ve figured out who to involve in the stages of your process, other roadblocks in the policy review process may arise. By its very nature, a thorough review is likely to raise a wide set of issues. After all, reviewers should be actively looking for anything that causes them to raise questions about:

  • Policy implementation
  • Surface elements of the policy that were overlooked or missed by the original drafters
  • Potential unintended consequences
  • Unclear language
  • Other reviewers who could be vital to the process that you might not have considered including 
  • Regulatory or legal issues in specific jurisdictions

Ensure that reviewers are actually assessing the document itself, and not just the concepts it contains. That’s the only way they’ll discover cosmetic issues such as confusing language, incorrect grammar, and wonky formatting. When reviewing the content itself, reviewers should be on the looking out for:

Alignment with internal rules and external regulations: Does the policy align with the company’s core values? Does it contradict existing procedures and policies? Does it promote compliance with laws and regulations?

Relevance: Is this policy necessary for the organization? How often is it likely to be utilized?

Implementation: How will this policy be implemented by the organization? As written, can it be implemented successfully?

Impact: How will the members of your company who will be directly affected by this policy react to it? Is this policy likely to be followed? Is there a possibility that the policy could negatively impact productivity, employee satisfaction, or any other inner workings of the organization?  

Figuring Out Feedback

Once you identify the necessary steps of the policy review process and carry them out, the next phase is handling the feedback you receive. It isn’t always necessary to implement policy changes based on every piece of feedback your reviewers give you. Ultimately, how feedback should be handled is at the discretion of the policy owner. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal of the policy review process is policy approval. Sometimes, this necessitates making certain changes in order to receive approval from stakeholders. 

It’s also important to remember when considering feedback that the review process is not always linear! It’s possible that the cycle of sharing a policy for review, receiving feedback, and making changes based on that feedback will repeat itself several times over as necessary until you have a final document that can stand up to muster. 

Creating the Best Policy Review Process

The ideal policy review process for an organization broadens the sense of ownership over the policy being reviewed, which encourages and benefits its ultimate implementation. A thorough, documented review makes approval and implementation that much easier. After all, everyone is much more likely to have confidence in the contents of a policy after it’s been thoroughly reviewed and vetted by relevant experts. 

For the best possible review process, you need to use the right tools. ComlianceBridge is the final step in the journey of optimizing your policy review process, with software that configures automated workflows for all the necessary stages of review. On our platform, everyone can comment and review the same version of a policy, sidestepping common issues like having to juggle multiple documents and long email threads. 

Additionally, ComplianceBridge’s notifications make sure that everyone involved in the process stays informed as changes are made, and automated reminders ensure that nobody vital to the process misses their opportunity to review and approve the policy being evaluated. All of this activity will be logged within our system, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of it on your own, further securing efficiency within the review process. 

Once your policy has been reviewed and approved, it only takes one click to publish, and even post-approval, ComplianceBridge can track acknowledgement and create custom quizzes to test policy comprehension within your company. This allows you to see how successful your reviewers were at making a policy that would be easy to understand and implement while ensuring you’ve communicated any new concepts to your employees effectively. 

The faster you implement a good policy review process, the faster you can approve and publish policies with the knowledge that they’ve been thoroughly analyzed and vetted in the most efficient manner possible. To get started, contact ComplianceBridge for a free demo today!

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