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What is Policy Management? And Why Does It Demand New Solutions?

Like the many gears that keep machinery running efficiently, an effective Policy Management program involves many moving parts. Trying to wrangle these parts on your own, without a software solution, isn’t really an option anymore.

An intuitive, easy-to-use Policy Management solution should automate its process for you, enabling the consistent use of best practices, so you can keep up with the complexities of managing policies and procedures at a time when they’re in constant need of adjustment.

What is policy management and why is it important?

Policy Management refers to the creation, communication, and management of all the policies and procedures implemented by an organization. Policies are the foundation of governance, risk, and compliance (or GRC) strategy, of course; a good example of a policy that every company uses is a Code of Conduct. Every business consists of various departments, and Policy Management ensures that these departments abstain from creating policies that may undermine others.

Policy Management is also vital for risk mitigation. Even well-intentioned employees can create risk by not being aware of proper policies and procedures and how to stay in accordance. It also lays the foundation for enterprise compliance and should align with other factors, such as a company’s ethical values and business goals.

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Essentially, Policy Management allows senior management to direct the entire company in a certain direction and make sure everyone is on the same page. Using manual policy management leaves your company exposed to risk and increased litigation from employees.   In periods of disruption, as we’ve recently seen, Policy Management becomes even more important as organizations pivot to address new demands, such as implementing work-from-home strategies and office access permissions.

All of these changes require Policy Management and efficient and streamlined processes for developing, reviewing, and implementing those policies consistently and enforceably across an entire organization.

Developing an effective Policy Management program

Using old-school solutions like paper or even email just doesn’t cut it any longer – they expose your organization to a lot of risks. To create an effective policy management program, you need to create a centralized repository where you can develop, create, and maintain policies.

This repository should serve as the hub to keep all your policies easily accessible, leaving behind an audit trail. With this central hub established for policies, monitoring your policy management program becomes easy and intuitive.

It’s important to set automated workflows for new policies to ensure the right people review and approve them before they go live to your employees. You may also want to automatically ensure version control, so approvers are only able to see the most recent version of a policy, as this makes the review process a breeze. An effective policy management system will show audit trails and a history of interactions with policies in the case of any legal action that may arise.

So what are the benefits you should expect from an updated Policy Management system?

Publish easily

Publish your policies quickly and get them in front of the right people in an easy-to-use fashion, cutting out the burden of end-user training. Best-in-class software solutions make it easy to determine the optimal way to communicate and trigger automated workflows, which in turn send policies targeted only to the people who need to understand and attest to them. By sharing policies only with the employees that need them, you can save both your own and your employees’ time.

Receive real-time affirmation & attestation

With the right tool in place, management is able to gain real-time insight into who has accepted which policies, which version of a particular policy, and when they affirmed receipt and gave attestations.

Why does this matter? Affirmations and attestation help enforce your compliance program from the top down and the bottom up. They enable employees to understand the core values of your organization and opt into them, ensuring that all employees are aligned with your business priorities and values.

Assess employee knowledge

Policies will fail to work properly if the people creating them lack insight into the effectiveness of their communication. It’s paramount that your organization’s leadership be aware of whether or not employees are understanding their policies and procedures.

The only way to gain this insight is to assess an employee’s knowledge through testing their understanding. These assessments arm leadership with the necessary insights to address any knowledge gaps, understand what may cause them, and accordingly remediate, review, and change procedures – all within the same system. It’s also a smart move to automate routine surveys, to understand if employees are putting those policies into practice the way they are meant to.

Report and audit

Ultimately, regulators want to see evidence that your compliance program is effective. Your policy management solution should enable you to quickly and easily understand if your organization is protected, if your employees understand and comply with regulations, and whether you published your policies in a timely fashion.

In other words, you should be able to demonstrate your program’s effectiveness by providing a full report, including a report on your surveys and test results.

Agility

Businesses have had to pivot, much against their will in many cases, to cope with the challenges of COVID-19 and the disruptions it’s caused.  Employees have had to work from home, requiring new digital and equipment policies; office visitation policies have had to change; health and welfare policies have been revised…all at nearly breakneck speed.

Keeping pace with these changes has been an enormous headache for many organizations, and old-school methods of drafting, distributing, and enforcing policies haven’t been equal to the job.  An effective Policy Management program, supported by modern technology, gives human resources and compliance teams the agility that’s needed to manage disruption and turn-on-a-dime policy pivots.

Automation is key to streamlined Policy Management

While some people try to manage a Policy Management regime manually, this approach fails to supply the level of robustness and detail you need to prove compliance to regulators and build a defensible compliance program.

Not to mention, that manual approach? In an age when efficiency is everything, it’s a suckhole of time and energy (and therefore, money) that also leaves you far too exposed. An automated, comprehensive Policy Management program supports governance, risk, and compliance by instituting a culture of compliance, communicating boundaries and expectations clearly to all stakeholders, protecting your company from litigation, and helping achieve your organizational goals.

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