Every company has a policy documentation and distribution process, but not every company's process is as effective as it can be.
The majority of companies update, review and distribute policies on an as-needed basis (42%) or multiple times a year (30%), according to DocuSigns's survey of 219 HR executives. Over time, this adds up to a considerable investment of time and resources and (let's be honest) becomes an unnecessary burden on HR teams.
While many may be relying on what they've always done, an outmoded policy routine could cost companies time and money—especially when considering the increased need for policy updates around things like testing or vaccination status. In fact, our survey found that half of HR executives (51%) report that the frequency of updating, reviewing or distributing new or revised employee policy documents has already increased since the pandemic began.
The solution is to all of this is simple, and it's to simplify your processes. To do that, three key steps will make your policy updates and distribution easier—for everyone involved.
Step #1. Clearly identify the stakeholders in your process
By identifying your unique list of policy stakeholders, you can better control the review process and timing. For instance, our survey found that HR teams are most likely to be involved in all steps in the process, from developing employee policy documents (85%) to editing to reviewing employee policy documents (60%) to distributing employee policy documents (61%).
Even so, HR likely isn't the only stakeholder. Senior management also has a hand in the process, although our survey shows their primary role is often the final approval). For some companies supervisors and managers are also involved in editing or reviewing policy documents (32%) or are engaged in distributing employee policy documents (42%).
Legal counsel also has a place, albeit most (55%) are involved in editing/reviewing. Another group that could be on your unique list? Corporate communications. "I would argue that your corporate communications team is a big stakeholder in this process, especially as we digitize policies and make sure people are paying attention to them," says Nick Schacht, the Chief Global Development Officer for SHRM.
Companies that use their internal communication channels effectively tend to lean on their corporate communications teams to moderate and run all company communication so that everything has a consistent voice. "Policies should be exactly the same," explains Schacht.
Step #2. Create boundaries and streamline interactions to avoid roadblocks
Once you've got your list, it's time to create boundaries and hold key players accountable. Know what role each player has (and make sure they know it too)—without making the mistake of unnecessarily involving them. Take senior management, for example.
"If you over involve too many senior executives in the policy creation, documentation and distribution process, then you'll likely have problems," explains Schacht. We looked at our data to see where most senior management should be involved to avoid roadblocks.
Our survey showed that more than half of senior management (58%) is mainly involved in just the final approval phase—while 42% help edit or review employee policy documents, 26% help develop employee policy documents, and only 20% take on distribution.
Now, the great news about using the right technology? That's where DocuSign comes in. It can help you configure these boundaries and automatically hold team members accountable for their role in the review or update process.
"Let's say you're updating your travel expense policy, and it requires review by the CFO, head of payroll, and HR," outlines Schacht. "You can easily route this through something like DocuSign that'll show that this policy update was received on this date, reviewed on this date and the signature is here. Boom. And you're done."
Yes, it really can be that simple. With boundaries and accountability, your interactions will be instantly streamlined with less chance of surprises or roadblocks.
Step #3. Make distribution easy—the way it should be—with the right technology
Once your stakeholders are set, and policy updates are approved, it's onto optimizing your distribution. This is where real-time insights come in handy and where companies can get stuck—especially at organizations with hundreds of employees and dozens of documents.
When we asked HR executives what activities were difficult using their companies' current employee policy document distribution, 30% said scheduling automatic follow-ups with employees, and 26% said collecting or tracking employee exceptions to a policy.
To be effective, companies need automation and digital collaboration tools that can help you centralize the data, track which signatures have been captured, and simplify follow-ups to get policy documents distributed and acknowledged as quickly as possible.
If it's not simple or if the communication isn't clear (looking at you, corporate communication teams), then you're losing time waiting or hunting for responses, or your employees are losing valuable working time looking for instructions. And that's also why there's an added benefit of streamlining your distribution: improving the employee experience.
Not only does a simple distribution process increase the likelihood of compliance, but it also reduces stress by presenting things in a way that makes sense to the employee rather than expecting them to search through a portal or find a paper file haphazardly.
So, go get your list ready, your boundaries laid out, your distribution plan in place and your technology to track it all, because there's also no time to waste.
Most companies have already changed their distribution process since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Electronic signatures (43%), attachments via email (36%) and employee portals (36%) are on the rise; while printed documents shared in the office (7%) and automated workflow for mass/bulk sending are being used less.
If you put in the time now toward modernizing and simplifying your process, then you'll end up saving everyone time (and possible headaches) while ensuring your team members are on the same page. After all, the data says it all: doing what you've always done is out, and simplifying is in. Besides, why wouldn't you want to make everyone's lives easier (including your own)?