Regularly reviewing policies and procedures is not only critical but could lead to your business’s success.
Many people tend to think of policies and procedures (P&P) as inflexible and unchanging, and that once they are created, they are in place for good. It’s basically a ‘set and forget’ mentality.
However, this is a flawed and problematic view of policies and procedures. Effective P&P management requires far more than just creating a manual to sit on a shelf. Policies and procedures should be viewed as living documents that grow and adapt with your business as it grows and adapts to the industry climate. While the core elements of a P&P may stay the same, the details should change with your business and industry.
Review and revision is a crucial part of an effective management plan.
Old and outdated P&P’s can leave your business exposed. These old documents may fail to comply with new laws and regulations, may not address current business requirements such as new systems or technology, which can lead to inconsistent and flawed practices.
Regularly reviewing P&P’s keeps your business up to date with regulations, technology, and industry best practices and ensures that your documents are consistent and effective. Unfortunately, because P&P review is often overlooked it tends to only become an issue when there is a workplace incident or P&P violation. At this stage it is too late to change or update the policy or procedures, so you are left to work within the constraints of the current document.
An incident or P&P violation can indicate the need for a change, and it is a good idea to do a debrief after an incident to make sure the policy and/or procedure document had the intended effect. Examine the details of the incident to see if staff carried out the procedures properly. Look to see if there were any gaps in training or staff understanding of the policy.
However, not every P&P violation should result in sweeping changes. Sometimes it’s an isolated incident, calling for additional training or remediation for the staff involved.
Old and outdated policies and/or procedures can leave your business exposed. - Astrowave
So how often and when should you review your policies and procedures?
In a perfect world, we would recommend that your P&P’s are reviewed annually. However, we are realists and understand that you are trying to run a business, manage staff and comply with a multitude of other regulations and business requirements therefore reviewing P&P’s is not going to rank high on the ‘to do’ list. So, our suggestion would be that policies are reviewed every two years at a minimum.
The best way to proactively tackle P&P review is just to build it into your business calendar. Try to tackle reviewing one policy every second month. This will allow you to achieve 6 policies in a year. If you take the same approach with procedures (review one procedure in the opposite month to the policy review) you will also achieve 6 procedure reviews in a year.
Another approach is to address P&P reviews as you experience organisational change. Organisational changes won’t affect every P&P, so it allows you to focus your time on a select few that are impacted by the changes on foot. For example, a new business structure probably shouldn’t impact your annual leave policy or your workplace surveillance policy but may change other day-to-day policies and processes. This process can be rather ad hoc so it would be important to monitor when all P&P’s have last been reviewed and ensure they don’t miss being reviewed.
Remember, P&P review doesn’t always result in a document revision. Sometimes, you may need to make big changes to address new regulations or gaps. Other times, you may just make a few small tweaks. And sometimes, the document works as-is, with no revisions required at all.
How should you update policies and procedures?
Once you’ve established a regular P&P review schedule and identified P&P’s that need updating, it’s time to get to work on revisions.
Here are some best practices for updating policies and procedures:
- Determine who is involved with the P&P. Your P&P writing crew will differ depending on the P&P. It could include supervisors who oversee the procedures, managers, HR directors, or executives. Try to gather a diverse group of people from different departments who have a say in that part of the business.
- Once you’ve decided on your crew, explain why a change is needed, and what needs to happen.
Specific questions to consider as you undertake the review:
- Is the P&P having the desired effect? Sometimes, staff are following the P&P, but it’s not having the desired impact. Every P&P should have a clear goal or objective. Over time, this will help you measure whether it is effective.
- Are the P&P’s current and relevant? Make sure they line up with how your current systems and structures actually work. If P&P’s refer back to old structures or technology, staff are more likely to ignore them or think that they don’t matter.
- If it’s a small change, it may be as simple as recommending the specific changes in language or phrasing. In other cases – especially in the case of changes to laws or regulations – it may be a more involved change process. You may need to gather input from subject matter experts (SME’s) or consultants.
- Document all comments and changes to the P&P. As you consult with your writing crew, make sure to document all comments, notes, and input from every crew Often, it’s helpful to appoint one document owner to gather all the feedback and make the final edits. But you don’t want any essential feedback to slip through the cracks.
- Every policy needs to be approved. This should be someone at an executive level within the business. Once you have a final policy draft, send it to the approver along with the reasons and research for the changes. If this person has not been involved in the policy review and revision process, including some of the background and reasoning behind the changes can help them see why it’s necessary to update it.
- Finally, distribution of the new document to staff. Not only should the new/updated P&P be distributed to staff, but they should be educated on the new requirements, and sign-off to acknowledge they have read and understood the document. This part of the process may become critical at a later stage when Managers want to rely on the document to manage or discipline crew members.
- If the P&P change is extensive enough, you may want to consider conducting training to ensure staff understand the new requirements.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of reviewing policies and procedures. Keeping your P&P’s updated helps minimise risks, increase operational excellence, and ensure your staff have the information to do their jobs well.
If you are like us and want to have a process in place to support the review of your policies and procedures, or, you want your current document reviewed, connect with us and we can chat about the best way to do this… hint hint it might possibly be in an Astrowave portal!