Vendor management policies are essential for establishing the overarching rules, guidelines and expectations for managing third-party vendors across your organization. However, getting employees to actually follow your policies can – well – be a challenge.
In this blog I share eight effective tips for getting your employees to follow your vendor management policies on a consistent basis. Whether you’re rolling out brand new policies, or looking for ways to get better compliance with existing ones, read on to find valuable insights and practical tips for success.
- Write Policies So Humans Can Understand Them
Most vendor management policies I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot) are poorly written and difficult to understand. Vague statements, complex words and lots of jargon make many policies confusing and hard for employees to comprehend.
When you write your policies, use clear and concise language – the fewer the syllables the better. Remove unnecessary filler words. And be specific so that all employees, regardless of level of expertise or experience, understand what’s really expected of them.
- Communicate Them Clearly
When you introduce a new policy, make sure it’s supported by a solid communication plan. Your communication should cover things like why the policy is being adopted, when it will be enacted and where to go for questions.
When feasible, the communication should also provide the ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIFM) to explain how the employee will benefit by adopting the policy. While this isn’t applicable to every new policy, it does help with acceptance and adoption.
- Make it Easy to Find Your Policies
When policies are hard to find, employees don’t have important information they need when they need it. And honestly if policies are too hard to find, people might not even bother looking at all. It’s just human nature.
Make your vendor management policies easily accessible by creating a centralized location where they can be accessed quickly and easily. This can be done through a central vendor management hub – like this one from Harvard University – or through a policy management software tool like this one from Trainual.
Also, if your policies are in document form (i.e. Word, PDF), use a standard naming convention. It makes it a lot easier for an employee to know when they have the right document.
- Lead by Example
Employees are more likely to follow policies when they see their leaders modeling the behavior. If VPs and managers don’t follow the policies themselves, employees are less likely to take them seriously.
Leaders must be the first to follow the policies and set an example for the rest of the team. This helps create a culture of compliance and accountability.
- Provide Regular Training
Periodic training is crucial in keeping your vendor management policies front and center with employees. Important topics to cover in your vendor management training include a breakdown of the policies themselves, an overview of key roles and responsibilities, and a lot of ‘how tos’ so that employees can apply what they learn in their day-to-day.
Best practice is to make training mandatory for all employees, including new hires, to ensure that everyone is up to date.
- Monitor Compliance
Monitoring compliance is critical in ensuring that employees follow policies. If you use a Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) system, it’s a great place to track compliance, identify non-compliance, and take appropriate action.
There are a variety of ways to monitor compliance including audits, surveys, and analytics. Regular monitoring will also help you identify areas where there are gaps in skills or knowledge, which can point you to further training that may be needed to close those gaps.
- Hold Employees Accountable
Enforcing consequences is an essential part of getting employees to follow your policies. Consequences can range from verbal warnings to termination, depending on the severity of the non-compliance. Make sure the consequences are consistent and fair, and apply them equally to all employees.
- Keep Your Policies Fresh
Lastly, you need to ensure your vendor management policies stay current so they remain relevant and effective. Policies need to be kept up to date with changing regulations, as well as your own evolving business requirements – including emerging areas like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ESG.
Best practice is to establish an annual process to review and revise your vendor management policies, incorporating feedback from stakeholders and incorporating new best practices and industry standards as needed. You should also consider conducting periodic risk assessments to identify emerging threats and vulnerabilities and adjust your policies accordingly.
Getting employees to comply with your vendor management policies can be challenging, but it is essential for ensuring that your organization operates efficiently, effectively, and safely.
Vendor Centric specializes in writing clear and effective vendor management policies. If you need a hand writing or updating yours, schedule a call to learn how we can help.