6 Best Practices for Effective Policy Management

The most significant regulations on compliance programs hinge on effective policy management. These include the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and even the Justice Department, which means companies have everything to lose by overlooking policy management.

But even without the regulatory requirements, effective policy management is how organizations of today can adapt to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice protests, climate change, and more. That’s why policy management represents a strategic advantage for organizations who get it right.

In a recent white paper, we explained the best practices that make an effective policy management program. What follows are six recommendations for strengthening your policy management and putting your organization on the path to a more resilient business.

1 – Create Well-Structured Workflows

Workflows are the backbone of effective policy management. They provide structure to the development and implementation of policies. Well-structured workflows can save compliance teams both time and resources by clarifying how your organization will respond to different circumstances. This is also what regulators are looking for when they evaluate whether your policy management program meets their standard.

One example we reference in the white paper is local managers establishing vacation scheduling. In this scenario, the workflow defines who owns that duty, as well as the policy management steps that person must follow. These include:

  • Who writes the policy?
  • Which executives can review the policy?
  • Which executives can approve or veto the final version?

Effective workflows should also include alerts, so the compliance team knows when a policy is not progressing. These alerts can also remind you when it’s time to review a policy in case your circumstances have changed.

2 – Deploy Rapid Responses to Changing Circumstances

Open up your Facebook profile or visit your favorite news network, and you’ll find countless circumstances that require a rapid response. These can be as far-reaching as the COVID-19 pandemic or a natural disaster or can be hyper-specific to your organization in the case of particularly egregious conflicts of interest. Either way, your policy management must be capable of rapid response.

In the white paper, we use the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. As COVID-19 spread across the globe, regulations changed quickly regarding how companies must accommodate employees so they can work at home or continue to gather safely in the workplace. Strong policy management should quickly identify and adapt to these kinds of changes.

Your policy management should be able to integrate with however your organization already monitors regulatory change. Should a regulatory change arise, your policy management should notify you that you may need new policies. From there, lean into your well-structured workflows to create, approve, and implement your policy revisions.

3 – Certify That Employees Understand Compliance Material

It’s not enough to develop and disseminate new policies. Effective policy management also means certifying that employees not only read but understand your compliance material. This concept has already been widely adopted in employee training, and compliance in the digital age is no different.

Include an attestation requirement at the end of every training. Be sure to also provide a way for employees to ask questions should they need clarification on the course or your compliance program. This should also alert you or someone else on your compliance team if an employee ignores the attestation so you can follow up.

As with the other aspects of policy management, look to your workflow to identify and escalate any issues. You can also aggregate attestation data to understand which departments take the longest to submit them, which ignore them altogether, and so on, to help you build a path to better employee understanding.

4 – Utilize Living Metadata

Living metadata tracks all the ways, big and small, employees engage with your policy management system. This allows you and your compliance team to identify and analyze the policies or departments that may need more support. If you ever wonder where you can optimize your policy management system, the living metadata within your technology should hold the answers.

In our white paper, we use the example of a large organization with thousands of policies in a single library. An employee could spend hours searching for a specific policy. With living metadata, your compliance technology would compile lists of the most-read policies for a certain time period or about a certain topic, making it easier for employees to navigate.

Living metadata is also a great way to make compliance a two-way conversation. Employees can ask questions or provide feedback and compliance officers can add their responses, which helps employees understand the full context of every policy.

5 – Consistently Monitor Your Compliance Program

To make your policy management program better, you must understand what’s not working. Without consistent monitoring, you might overlook policies or processes that are begging to be revisited. Living metadata can accomplish some monitoring, but comprehensive reviews require a broader range of data.

Some inputs we list in the white paper include calls to internal hotlines, updated or new regulations, and audits that document control failures, each of which can reveal areas of opportunity.

While some of this information can be collected automatically, others might need a more manual review. Build into your workflows a step for you or your compliance team to periodically review policies and procedures that your technology can’t handle.

6 – Employ Policy Management Across the Enterprise

Your policy management must work with other systems across your enterprise in order to generate a return on investment. Other IT systems, specifically, can make your system more efficient and responsive, making it easier for you to generate a return.

One example we provide in our white paper is integrating your policy management into your organization’s HR and personnel systems. This will ensure that employees get the right material at the right time, especially during onboarding. Your risk of failure is higher if you’re still trying to manually match employees to policies.

The more seamlessly you can integrate policy management across the organization, the better your organization can adapt to new risks and the policies that come with them.

In Conclusion

Companies have everything to lose without effective policy management. Both the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the Justice Department require policy management as part of a compliance program. Though creating a policy management system may seem complex, technology can actually make it rather simple.

From workflows to living metadata to consistent monitoring, technology can handle much of the policy management. This makes it easier to weather storms that often arise in the ever-changing business landscape. Download the full white paper to learn more about establishing policy management best practices in your organization.