Records Management Guidelines Every Business Must Follow

Controlling the Creation, Access, Storage, and Disposal of Records

Modern Office

Businesses rely on the information they collect to provide goods and services to their customers, and to drive important business-related decisions. 

They also need to store a ton of documentation, including employee records, financial records, and contracts, many of which must to be kept on file for an extended period of time in order to comply with federal and state records retention guidelines.

This creates a never ending avalanche of data businesses need to manage.

With record retention laws varying from state to state, it can be difficult to know what kinds of data your organization needs to store, and for how long. 

And even after you get a grip on all the various regulations, staying compliant with them is time is expensive and time consuming. 

Thankfully, all of these headaches can be easily solved by implementing a company-wide records management policy. 

Records management is an essential tool for businesses who need to organize, access, and store a large amount of sensitive data.

This article will help you understand what records management is, how it works, and its potential benefits for your organization.

What is Records Management?

Records Management is a set of standards and practices that dictate how data will be created, accessed, stored, and disposed of. Think of it as a roadmap that every document that enters your organization must follow.

The main purpose of records management is to ensure that critical data remains organized and accessible for business use at all times, and to ensure that sensitive data in your possession is properly handled and stored in compliance with data privacy laws and regulations

Why Should Businesses Care About Records Management?

If employees are the heart of a company, then records management is the vascular system.

Proper record keeping practices provide businesses with the processes and tools needed to manage the flow of information throughout the company.

A well designed records management plan ensures that employees are able to locate the information they need quickly and efficiently, leading to increased productivity and higher job satisfaction.

It also ensures that sensitive records and proprietary information is well protected, helping businesses avoid costly fines or legal fees associated with a data breach.

Why Are Businesses Failing at Record Keeping?

Records management takes a lot of effort, and not every business has the resources or experience needed to implement a successful data management plan.

Every processes needs to be ironed out, and employees need extensive training and support.

When other more pressing business issues arise, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees, and more often than not, records management is neglected.

What are the consequences of poor records management?

Failure to implement a records management strategy comes with a myriad of consequences that can hinder the success of any business. A few of the most common issues associated with poorly managed records include damaged reputation, workflow inefficiencies, and a lack of regulatory compliance.

Damaged Reputation. Data breaches, abuse, or theft of sensitive data can result in irreparable damage to a business’ reputation, or even the loss of an important business relationships.

Workflow Inefficiencies. Employee time spent sifting through filing cabinets and boxes looking for documents is time wasted, leading to worker frustration and fostering low employee morale.

Lost of Critical Data. In a poorly organized record keeping system, irreplaceable information is often lost without anyone even noticing.

Financial losses. A recent study from the University of York found that nearly 35% of businesses polled admitted to having experienced a negative impact to business revenue due in part to poor record keeping practices.

Missed Deadlines and Lost Opportunities. Failure to renew contracts or make timely payments can permanently damage relationships with vendors and partners.

Cluttered workspace. Paper piles and folders occupy valuable office space, forcing the business to pay premium prices for document storage.

Lack of Regulatory Compliance. Failure to meet regulatory compliance can lead to lawsuits, fines, and legal fees.

What Are Some Best Practices for Managing Company Records?

Below are a few simple steps businesses can take to improve their records management practices:

Provide training for your employees, and get them on board with keeping organized records. Many companies work hard to make sure their employees are aware of the importance of keeping their personal and business records organized, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s an uphill battle. This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s easy for employees to fall into bad habits when they don’t have a clear understanding of what constitutes an important record, and how it should be handled.

Limit access to sensitive documents. Ensuring that only those who need access to confidential records have access to them reduces the number of times data passes hands, reducing the chances of data theft or accidental disclosure.

Go Paperless. There are many businesses forced to rely on outdated paper processes and manual filing systems, simply because they see no way out. Day-forward scanning can help businesses build an efficient and secure workflow in which newly created records are digitized the moment they come in. Storing records electronically provides numerous benefits, including increased productivity, ease of access to critical data, and better data security.

Establish and maintain a single company-wide mandate. Businesses should establish clear rules about how long certain types of records need to be kept before they can be destroyed or recycled—and make sure those rules are followed closely. This helps ensure that retention requirements are met.

Destroy unnecessary documents: Properly destroying your documents when they are no longer needed can prevent confidential data from falling into the wrong hands. Set specific guidelines about which documents need to be destroyed, when they need to be destroyed, and the method that will be used. If you’re unsure about how best to dispose of your documents, hire a professional shredding company who can provide you with guidance on how best to dispose of them.

How Do I Implement a Records Management Policy?

Document your requirements. Review your retention guidelines and regulatory compliance obligations to ensure your records management plan will meets these needs.

Identify data inputs and outputs. Understanding where your data comes from, and where it goes once it leaves your organization will help you better organize and secure your data.

Talk to your employees about how they currently manage data to get a better sense of where improvements to processes can be made.

Take feedback and complaints seriously. Involving your employees in the process ensures that their needs are met, and that concerns or problem areas can be addressed from the outset.

Decide whether you will use paper or electronic storage, or a combination of both. Different formats will obviously need to be handled independently. It can also be extremely beneficial to consolidate disparate records systems into a single, centralized system, which will make records management a whole lot easier.

Create a filing system. Organization is at the very core of records management. Establish one set of rules that all employees must follow to ensure that your data remains accessible and usable for everyone.

Implement it. A records management plan is only as good as its implementation. Be sure you provide your employees with the tools they need get the job done. Investing in computer software, hardware, and training will go a long way into ensuring your records management policy is a success.

Once you’ve implemented a good records management system, it’s critical to maintain it. This means regularly reviewing the contents of your files and making sure everything is where it should be. If you find something out of place, make sure to correct it immediately. Don’t forget to train new hires thoroughly to ensure your records management protocols are well understood by your entire team.

Document everything. Putting your records management practices into writing helps ensure that it is well communicated to your team members and holds you accountable to what is there.

Why Should I Hire a Professional Document Management Company?

If you’re struggling to put a records management policy in place, SecureScan can help. We provide a number of high volume scanning and shredding services that will make the management of your company records easy and affordable. We can help you set up systems and processes that will help keep your documents organized and secure. Contact us today to Get a free quote.

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