Separate vs. integrated management systems

integrated management systems

As companies implement various processes for health and safety, quality, environment and so on, they tend to add new systems separately instead of using integrated management systems which can leave management and employees bogged down in what’s often administrative, repetitive work.

Separate ISO management systems are siloed and clunky, rather than streamlined and efficient. The workload for staff goes up. Processes are rigid, making it more difficult to remain agile and flexible.

Seamlessly integrating management systems into one lean, low-burden system makes it possible to overcome these challenges and maintain compliance with greater ease, freeing up more time for employees to spend on high-value work and reducing the resistance to interacting with the system, thereby getting more buy-in.

Managing change:

While ISO certification is a beneficial achievement for businesses, change can be difficult and staff may worry about how their roles and responsibilities will be impacted.

Will employees need to take on more work as systems are integrated or change their familiar way of doing things? These are just two of the concerns that may lead to employees being hesitant about the change.

This is where an investment in integrated management systems can be advantageous for businesses and employees alike. Even if there is some initial uncertainty, removing duplication and busy work and finding a realistic and effective way to move forward can reduce the resistance to change considerably.

How do integrated management systems work?

Establishing an effective ISO management system for safety, quality, information security and environment starts with integrated compliance.

ISO standards such as ISO 9001ISO 45001ISO 27001 and ISO 14001 follow the same core framework known as Annex SL and can be combined into one robust and lean system. For example, ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 can be integrated to establish a HSE management system. Annex SL is a high-level structure with ten distinct clauses and since its introduction, up to 50% of each ISO standard has the same requirements.

If you are adding more standards to your existing framework OR you already have considerable systems in place, integration and streamlining can take place over time using a staged approach to minimise the change required.

By streamlining siloed aspects of your systems your business can become more efficient and improve risk management. However, these are just two of the benefits.

If you are planning to add standards one at a time, we often recommend using ISO 9001 as the foundation. Then once quality systems are established, additional standards can be plugged into the foundational system without duplication.

Below we share several more reasons moving towards an integrated management system model is valuable for companies.

Integrated Management Systems improve performance in key areas

When systems are integrated, managing numerous key areas such as health and safety, quality and information security can be done with greater ease and clarity. The requirements for multiple standards are built into one lean system so that all processes can function simultaneously.

Laborious and unnecessary busy work, which is repetitive and manual, can be reduced (or with a cloud system largely eliminated). Employees have more time to put towards meaningful tasks that will advance the company, rather than onerous low-value tasks taking up their time.

Improving performance and productivity across all systems can attract new business and help organisations win more lucrative ongoing contracts and preferred supplier status.

When weighing up tender submissions companies often favour ISO certified applicants because of the credibility and peace of mind that comes with knowing they have reputable compliance. Moreover, for some project opportunities certification has become non-negotiable. For example, ISO 27001 is increasingly becoming a requirement for government tenders.

Integrated Management Systems reduce duplication across systems

Because ISO standards are structured similarly, using the Annex SL framework, there are numerous areas where documentation overlaps.

When different systems are implemented independently there will be unnecessary repetition of information, data and documentation. If updates need to be made, it can be time-consuming for employees to go through each individual document to ensure it’s up-to-date. Human error could result in some documents being missed, leading to confusion or mistakes down the line and eventually non-conformances at the external audit.

By integrating management systems this can be avoided entirely. Changes are quick and easy to implement because there is no duplication of documentation. Employees can easily manage information, saving time. When employees refer to a document, they can be confident that it’s the most up-to-date version.

Integrated Management Systems achieve consistency across all operations

As your business grows in size and complexity an integrated management system makes it easier to maintain compliance across all operations.

All systems are streamlined, lean and easy to update organisation-wide. Company objectives and processes are clearly detailed and documented, avoiding any confusion among employees. Regardless of their position, location or length of time working at the business everyone is on the same page.

Integrated Management Systems educe costs and waste

One of the main reasons businesses integrate their management systems is because it’s more cost-effective than implementing each standard independently. Integrating two or more management systems can be as much as 33-50% cheaper than introducing the same systems separately from scratch.

Integrating management systems can also help you save on costs in the long-term. By streamlining systems allocation of resources is improved and processes are optimised. Areas that are performing inefficiently can be identified and an action plan for making systems more cost-effective without compromising on compliance can be devised.

Integrated Management System make auditing less of a burden

Integrated auditing makes it possible for your auditor to review two or more management systems concurrently. Because of this you can reduce certification costs, get certified faster and reduce documentation.

Getting employees on board with integrated management systems

A compliance plan is only as good as the team that follows it.

It’s unlikely if the benefits are explained, but if members of your team aren’t on board with the move to integrated management systems or are apathetic about compliance in general, some of the following tips will help.

1. Build a culture of compliance

To build a culture of compliance companies need to go beyond purely ticking a box. Instead, compliance becomes a part of ‘the way you do things’ at your organisation.

This is achieved with a holistic approach. One aspect could involve sharing regular reporting with employees for transparency, involvement and a greater sense of ownership.

Businesses that successfully make compliance part of their culture also provide regular training and refreshers, keeping compliance front-of-mind and ensuring that employees are kept in the loop.

In addition, resources are made readily available, such as those detailing safety procedures, so that they can be quickly accessed as needed.

Another option could be setting up incentives for employees who consistently demonstrate compliance excellence to provide positive reinforcement, reward achievements and show that the company recognises their efforts.

2. Lead the charge

Getting employees on board with integrating management systems requires that management lead by example.

Training and messaging needs to be provided to the leadership team so that they are in a position to drive the change and help employees with any questions or concerns. If leaders don’t understand the policies and procedures and why the company is integrating management systems, it will be difficult to guide employees through change with confidence.

3. Focus on learning

As companies work towards compliance they will usually identify areas that require some improvement.

When this happens, avoid accusation and instead methodically examine issues to determine a suitable solution and focus on the system rather than the people. Help employees see that implementing integrated management systems is a learning opportunity and a way to better the business as a whole and their experience at work.

4. Create a sense of ownership

When compliance is forced on employees, they have little to no ownership over the systems being implemented.

By asking for employee input, giving employees meaningful compliance tasks, valuing their efforts and so on, leaders can ensure that employees are actively involved in the certification process and develop a sense of ownership over the company’s achievement and maintenance of complaint systems.

5. Communication is key

Clear communication is a must at every stage of the certification process.

Make sure employees are aware that ISO certification or compliance is being sought and what the benefits will be. Give them the chance to come forward and ask any questions they have, which could also lead to them bringing certain issues to your attention that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Effective communication also ensures that all employees know the benefits of compliance, what to expect as systems are integrated and what this means for them. Any hesitations are transparently addressed, alleviating uncertainty.

Speak with a consultant about integrated management systems

If you’re ready to start working towards integrating numerous ISO standards, get in touch with our team of consultants today. We provide expert guidance every step of the way and take the difficulty out of achieving your certification objectives.

Alternatively, ask about our compliance softwarelegislative updatesISO gap analysis and ISO internal auditing services.

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