I’ve written previously about how an effective records management program can potentially save an organization millions of dollars in fines. So that begs the question: What are the elements of a good program?
One vital ingredient is the right approach to the retention of records. When it comes to a retention schedule, most companies either don’t have one or they don’t enforce it. This can be costly in terms of monthly records storage fees that pile up for many years. It can also be risky, leaving an organization vulnerable to litigation or discovery with regard to documents that should have been destroyed. So if your organization needs to create or re-think its retention schedule, here are some key objectives to keep in mind:1. Control paperwork and other materials from creation through storage to destruction/archiving. Included are correspondence and other documented materials, which have historical or operational value or are essential to the conduct of business.
2. Provide recommendations to eliminate duplication and ensure preservation of official records.
3. Establish a records inventory that will indicate the type of record being retained, whether hardcopy or in electronic. Employees need to be interviewed regarding the degree of reference activity.
4. Provide specific record retention periods for each type of record based on Federal and State regulations, counsel opinion, operating requirements, and suggestions from managers. All documents should be considered, such as corporate files, accounting and correspondence, and a business value determined.
5. Select and recommend which records are considered to be part of the Vital Records Protection Program and indicate the most economical methods of protection.
6. Evaluate the use of electronic storage media, file tracking systems and improved offsite storage techniques.
It’s good to remember that if there’s no schedule being followed, there is no compliance. In my next post I’ll take a look at what usually occurs during the creation of a retention policy. In the meantime, for more information on records management center best practices, including the retention of records, feel free to visit our web site, www.obs-innovation.com. Another good source is the Association of Records Managers and Administrators, www.arma.org.