Make Your Records Management Policy Work For You

by on July 6, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

What You Need In A Good Records Management Policy

So how do you keep all of this stuff for all of this time? Well, let’s talk about now about formulating a records management policy. A records management policy is essential to avoiding becoming one of the horror stories of botched records retention. There are a number that we can point to.

So why do you want have a records management policy? Number one – it helps you identify the documents and information your company produces. You want to know what you’re making. So, if you’re ever questioned about something or if an investigation ever comes up, or if you ever need to defend yourself against the charge, you want to know what information that you produce that might help you out of that.

The other thing that a records management policy does is that it controls that paper work. It helps you control how long you need to keep those documents for your business needs, and to meet your legal obligations.

So when you devise a record management program, what you do is you look at it and say, “How long do I need these, how long do I need to keep these to satisfy my legal obligations?” Number one, and then number two, “Do I need to keep it longer than that, in order to keep my business running?”

And finally the records management policy provides directions as to when each type of document will be destroyed. So this will free up physical space for you.

As far as implementing a records management policy, the first thing that you need to do is to assess the documents and information that your business produces and then determine how long you need that information for business purposes. These determination needs to be made by a representative sample of people from the various departments of the company. You need to know what the sales department produces. You need to know what accounts payable and accounts receivable is producing. You need what HR is producing.

This needs to be a company-wide initiative to get a handle on what documents you’re producing including any electronically stored information and figure out how long you need to keep that information.

Second step here is to obviously evaluate the applicable laws that dictate how long you need to keep each type of document to make sure that your records management policy doesn’t get you into any compliance problems.

Finally you need to develop guidelines regarding where and how various documents and information will be stored and when and how they will be destroyed. Some considerations here are going to be – well are we going to keep this information electronically or are we going to keep it in paper format? If we’re going to keep it electronically, how are we going to make sure that it is safe-guarded? And then if it is kept electronically, how do we destroy it and know that it’s gone?

The other – as far as paper documents, you know, are we going to shred them? Are we going to burn them? What are we going to do? Then you obtain management approval of the plan and then delegate responsibility for oversight of the program and produce a policy or a manual that sets it out in writing. And the important part of this is making sure the policy and plan are followed.

That way at any one point in time, you are able to say whether you’re going to have particular documents or whether they’ve been destroyed. If they’ve been destroyed, you have a completely innocent and reasonable explanation for why they were destroyed. Now obviously if there is piece of litigation out there, the records management policy needs to stop right then. And that’s what we’re going to get into now.

Edited Remarks From “Personnel Document Retention: What to Keep, How to Keep It & Why It Matters” by Matt Gilley

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