If your methods for creating, managing, and distributing human resources policies and procedures has become unmanageable, finding the right strategies and tools can turn a frustrating situation into a streamlined process.
From an outsider’s perspective, HR Policy and Procedure management might not seem like a big problem. Simply write up the policies and procedures, send them out to the appropriate staff, and call it a day. But HR professionals tasked with this responsibility are aware of how limited this assessment truly is.
- First, there are compliance standards that must be understood and met. Writing HR policies and procedures takes a great deal of consideration and planning to ensure all points are covered and all potential issues are accounted for. Plus, HR policies and procedures are often created in teams, which brings its own set of complications.
- Next, there’s the organization and storage of the documents themselves. If HR policies and procedures are not properly organized and easily accessible, then after a while you can find yourself spending more time trying to locate and manage documents and less time being productive.
- Finally, there’s distribution to ensure everyone who needs to be aware of new and updated HR policies and procedures reads and fully understands what is being sent to them. This might be one of the biggest challenges because often this process is done via email, which can go unread, or simply ignored.
With these considerations in mind, it’s not hard to see that HR policy and procedure management can become a bit of a nightmare, especially over time. Luckily there are strategies and tools that can help mitigate these issues and turn your system for HR policy and procedure management into a streamlined process that not only makes life easier for you and your HR team, but for employees as well.
Let’s Start at the Beginning: HR Policy and Procedure Creation
HR Policy and procedure creation is a complicated process on its own. A good first step is to build up a collection of HR templates to help you and your team get started. Many policies and procedures follow a structure that doesn’t need to be rewritten every time you create a new document. Like any document, HR templates must be shared and easily accessible amongst team members who collaborate to create policies. That’s where a document control software system comes into play. A document control system can store HR templates in a centralized location where they are accessible to everyone who needs them. Plus, changes can be tracked to determine how the template has changed over time, and who made the changes. This will bring consistency and certainty to your HR policy and procedure creation process.
Another problem with HR policy and procedure creation is the fact that these types of documents are often created in teams. Sharing a single file amongst multiple team members becomes a problem when communication and file changes are passed along through email or saved on network drives with ad-hoc versioning. Many different versions of the documents can exist simultaneously, so it becomes difficult to know what changes have been made, who made them, and which version is the latest. Ideally, the document should exist in a central location where only one person is allowed to make changes at a time. A document control system that allows for centralized document storage with check-in and check-out capabilities, as well as revision tracking and automatic notifications can go a long way in reducing the chaos involved in the HR policy and procedure creation process.
Another bottleneck can appear when it comes time to finalize the document and gain approval from others. One of the biggest problems with using emails to route policies for approval is the delay it can cause due to approvers not responding in a timely manner. Whether approvals are done in a series, or parallel, delays are often the result of simply waiting for approval. With a document control system in place, request for approvals can be sent out automatically and you can easily determine who still needs to approve. Once all approvals have been captured, the file can then automatically be stored and published in the correct location.
Policy and Procedure File Management
Once HR policies and procedures have been finalized and approved, the next important consideration to make is how the document will be stored, managed, and accessed by others. Simply uploading to a shared file server is not enough to ensure the files are safe from deletion or will not get altered or relocated. Plus, if you are not vigilant about organizational practices, over time you can have a real mess on your hands. With a document control system, files can be automatically filed in the correct location upon approval and an organizational system can be built from the ground up to ensure everything is published (and remains) in the correct location.
Another important consideration to make is HR file access. Not all documents are for everyone’s eyes. Controlling who has access to certain files is critical to many HR regulatory and compliance requirements. This type of security is hard to achieve without a system that uses role-based access. A document control system with role-based security built in will allow you to set up file management in a way that lets you determine who has access to which files, making it easier to manage documents securely and to ensure you are meeting compliance obligations.
Finally, HR policies and procedures will change over time. Maintaining a history of these changes is important, especially when it comes to regulatory standards and compliance. An inability to show how policies and procedures have been updated can be a real problem, especially when it comes time for an audit. Auditors often present a deadline for presenting documentation, and a finding can result if documents are not presented to the auditor in a timely manner. With the right document control system in place, all changes and revisions are easily tracked and logged with digital traceability. Reports can be built to easily prove how and when policies and procedures where changed, making for a stress-free situation when it comes time for an audit.
HR Policy and Procedure Distribution
When you’re ready to share new or updated HR policies and procedures with the appropriate people, it can be next to impossible to ensure that message was received on the other end. The running joke from the movie “Office Space” is that the main character is routinely hounded by different bosses throughout the day asking him if he received the memo on the policy change for TPS reports. This results in him receiving several copies of the same memo. This brilliantly illustrates the challenges of manually communicating and tracking acknowledgement for newly published HR policies and procedures. Often, email is used as the main communication method, but we all know emails are not a reliable way to prove someone has received the message. Fortunately, there are software tools that can automate this process, allowing for digital proof of acknowledgment.
To reliably track and record acknowledgement for new and updated policies and procedures, it’s best to use a document control system with built-in acknowledgment capabilities. Notifications can be sent to individuals, groups, or the entire organization via required reading workflows. The workflow will automatically notify each person that they are required to read the document and electronically confirm that they have done so. This provides a digital record of who has and has not acknowledged the new or updated policy or procedure. Reports can be generated, and when it comes time for an audit, you can quickly prove who acknowledged the document and when.
Give Your HR Team an Advantage in Today’s Competitive Market
Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding is a real challenge in today’s competitive job market. An often-unrecognized aspect of this is the underlying systems in place to achieve these goals in an efficient and organized manner. If your system for creating, managing, and distributing HR policies and procedures is less than streamlined, bottlenecks can impede your ability to stay competitive. Staying competitive is highly dependent on how quickly your HR team can move and avoid distractions. Issues with security and regulatory compliance, as well as inefficiencies of day-to-day processes, can quickly take away from the focus necessary to stay on track. The systems in place for creating, managing, and distributing HR policies, procedures, and other HR documents plays a fundamental role in the team’s ability to stay focused on essential goals like hiring the right people for the job, and quickly integrating them into the company.