5 Essential Records Management Procedures
A compliant records and information management program, also known as (RIM), is imperative for all organizations to manage their physical and electronic records throughout their life-cycle. As volumes of information rise in today’s ever-changing regulatory environment, it’s become a necessity for companies to implement consistent and accountable records management procedures.
By creating a well-structured records management plan, your organization will meet regulatory compliance, improve workflow, and limit itself to exposed risk. Here we’ve provided an overview of records management procedures that will set your RIM program up for success:
5 Steps to an Effective Records Management Program
Step 1: Set-up a Records Retention Schedule
Today’s increasingly digital environment is fast-paced, creating information quickly and in various formats. Many companies still rely on a “save all” approach when it comes to protecting data. Not only does this waste time and money, but it puts an organization at risk for noncompliance.
Establishing how long to retain records involves the implementation of an accountable records retention policy. A records retention schedule outlines how long records should be kept from an operational and legal standpoint, and that outdated records are disposed of in a timely, systematic manner.
When determining the retention period for your records, it’s important to:
- Perform a record inventory of all physical and electronic records
- Establish a standardized record classification system
- Conduct research on all federal, state, and local requirements
By setting a records retention schedule, your organization will benefit from the management of information assets, control storage costs, improve records retrieval, and eliminate legal risks.
Step 2: Policies and Procedures
Your records management program should support policies and procedures both legally and operationally. Policies and procedures set the standard for a compliant records management system. They should include the management of all records and media types, including email. Your company may have separate policies for records retention, active files, unused files, emails, and several other areas of information management.
The records management policies and practices should be communicated clearly and applied consistently throughout your organization. Uniformity and consistency are key drivers to set the foundation for a successful records management practice. When delivered in a proper, well-strategized manner, your policies and procedures will work simultaneously with your business continuity plan and disaster recovery program.
Step 3: Accessibility, Indexing, and Storage
A contributing factor of a successful records management program is the ability to access your information when it’s needed. Companies need to obtain information quickly for everyday business operations and compliance requirements.
Indexing parameters, including date, subject matter, creator, and location of the record, are essential to retrieving information promptly and efficiently. Depending on the information type – whether electronic or physical – storage locations may vary.
Electronic records can be stored and retrieved from an online document management system, also known as DMS. For archived documents that are required by law to be kept in physical form, offsite records storage facilities protect information in climate-controlled environments, freeing up office space. By finding a provider that offers scan-on-demand services for records stored offsite, you can quickly retrieve documents anytime, anywhere.
Step 4: Compliance Auditing
The successful outcome of an enterprise records management system will never be achieved if employees are not complying with a company’s records management policies and procedures. To ensure compliance by employees, your records management program should receive regular audits.
Components of a records management audit should include:
- Retention schedule complies with up-to-date laws and regulations
- Indexing accuracy and accessibility of documents
- Training and communication among staff and departments
- Protection and preservation of records
- Timely and consistent destruction of inactive files
A thorough audit of records management procedures will ensure that historical records are routinely maintained and destroyed in a compliant, well-enforced manner throughout your organization.
Step 5: Disposal of Obsolete Records
Once you’ve organized your files and determined the right retention policy, it’s time to dispose of unneeded documents. Businesses can encounter trouble when it retains documents for longer than required, including data breaches and hefty penalties. Why chance the risk and keep confidential documents past their legal requirements? Finalize your records retention policy by using shredding services with chain-of-custody procedures and NAID certification to destroy backlog files in a compliant manner.
When considering a records management and shredding company, it’s essential to:
- Determine the type of shredding program suitable for your media or paper records
- Choose a company that is NAID-certified
- Ensure all access personnel are background screened at the local, state and national level
- Provide a certificate-of-destruction for chain-of-custody documentation
Incorporating the timely destruction of records that have reached the end of their life-cycle into your records management plan will reduce the likelihood of a potential audit, legal risks, and storage costs.
Need to start your records management plan?
Vital Records Control’s comprehensive suite of records management services helps businesses manage their records in a compliant, secure manner. Whether you have paper archives, electronic records, or a combination of both, our team of experts will guide you through a consistent implementation process of managing records to save money, automate workflow, and mitigate compliance risks.