Skip to content

Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Records Retention Schedule

AdobeStock 81904881

As the world becomes more and more digitized, the question of how long to keep certain records becomes more complicated. When everything is recorded and stored electronically, it can be tempting to just keep everything “just in case.” However, this kind of thinking can expose your business to unnecessary risk and privacy law compliance issues.

The key to a successful records retention schedule is to carefully assess what kind of records you need to keep and for how long. You’ll also need to have a system in place for regularly purging outdated or unnecessary records.

With a little bit of planning, you can ensure that your business is only retaining the records it needs to, minimizing exposure to risk and keeping your data privacy compliant.

What is a Records Retention Schedule?

A records retention schedule is a systematic plan for how long information must be kept for legal and operational purposes and the guidelines for how to dispose of it. Companies implement retention schedules to maintain regulatory compliance, as well as to ensure disposal methods are legally defensible.

In essence, a retention schedule is the foundation of a solid records information management (RIM) program that governs business records throughout their lifecycle.

The Value of a Document Retention Schedule

The proliferation of data in today’s digital world is staggering. Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created at a record pace, and this number is only expected to grow in the future. With this massive increase in data comes increased regulations and restrictions on how it is used and stored.

This makes records retention schedules increasingly important for businesses in order to stay compliant with the law and protect their data. Records retention schedules allow businesses to organize, store, and delete data in an effective and compliant manner. They also ensure that data is not kept for longer than necessary, thus reducing the risk of a data breach or leak.

Benefits of a Record Retention Schedule

Record retention schedules are an essential component of any good records information management (RIM) program, and businesses should make sure that they have one in place.

Through the successful roll-out of a records retention schedule, companies can take advantage of the following benefits:

  • Control the exponential growth of records
  • Comply with retention guidelines
  • Locate and retrieve documents quickly and efficiently
  • Minimize litigation risks

By following these tips, you can create a records retention schedule that minimizes exposure to risk and helps ensure compliance with privacy laws. Here are a few tips to get you started:

How to Implement a Records Retention Schedule

1. Know Your Regulatory Requirements

It is important for businesses to understand the regulations that govern their industry. Depending on the industry, there may be certain regulations that require businesses to keep records for a certain period of time.

For example, in the healthcare industry, HIPAA requires that patient records be kept for at least six years. Businesses should familiarize themselves with these regulatory requirements and make sure they are compliant.

Failure to comply with these federal and state retention regulations can result in penalties and other negative consequences. Additionally, businesses should consider their own internal needs and decide how long they want to keep records, even if they are not legally required to do so. Keeping records for longer periods of time can help businesses track trends, improve customer service, and make more informed decisions.

2. Classify Your Records

Having an organized system for keeping track of your records is essential for efficient record-keeping. To start, create a spreadsheet or database that is organized into categories that make sense for the type of records you are keeping.

For example, if you are organizing financial or accounting records, you could create categories such as “Receipts,” “Invoices,” and “Bills.” If you are organizing files for your medical records management program, you could create categories such as “Lab Results,” “Prescriptions,” and “Appointment Notes.”

Once you have created your categories, you can start sorting your records into them. This will make it easier to find the information you need when you need it. By taking the time to classify your records, you can save yourself time and energy in the long run.

3. Determine Document Retention Periods

Creating a system for regular purges is essential for any records retention schedule. All records that have exceeded their retention date or no longer have value should be disposed of in a secure manner.

The first step is to create a list of all records that need to be purged. This list should include the type of record, the date it was created, the retention date, and any other relevant information. Then, decide on a regular schedule for purging the records. This could be once a month, quarterly, or annually depending on the number of records and your organizational needs.

When it comes time to purge the records, make sure you have a secure method in place to ensure that they are destroyed properly. This could include paper shredding or securely deleting digital files from your system. Having a secure document shredding plan in place for regularly purging outdated or unnecessary records will help ensure that you remain compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

4. Keep Your Records Organized

Having an organized filing system is essential for any business, large or small. Keeping your records organized will not only make it easier to find and retrieve the information you need but will also ensure that you comply with any legal requirements for record-keeping.

There are a few key steps to organizing your records. First, you need to decide on a filing system that will work best for you. This could be something as simple as organizing your records by type and year, or employing a document scanning company to scan and categorize your records. Once you have your system set up, you need to be consistent with keeping your records up to date and filing them in the right place.

As mentioned previously, purging old and unnecessary records is also important to keep your filing system tidy. By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to easily maintain an organized filing system that will make it easier to find the records you need.

5. Regularly Update Your Retention Schedule

When it comes to rolling out your retention schedule, the key is to make sure the process is efficient and effective. Ensure that everyone in your organization is aware of the changes, and that they understand their roles in helping to implement and enforce the schedule.

This could include providing training to relevant staff and creating internal policies and procedures. You should also make sure that your retention schedule is integrated with existing systems and processes, such as document storage and filing systems. Finally, you should take steps to ensure that your retention schedule remains up to date.

Additionally, be sure to regularly monitor changes in regulations or conduct regular reviews of the schedule to ensure it is still relevant. By following these steps, you can ensure that your retention schedule is properly implemented and enforced.

Ready to Start Your Retention Schedule?

When it comes to records retention, it’s important to have a plan to ensure that you’re compliant with legal and industry regulations. Having a schedule in place will also help you stay organized and ensure that your important documents are properly stored and accessible when needed. That’s why we’re here to help.

VRC offers a range of document scanning and storage solutions to help you start or refresh your records retention schedule. From an initial assessment of your current records management system to the development of a customized document conversion and workflow plan tailored to your specific needs, we can help you create a schedule that meets all of your requirements.

We also offer ongoing support to ensure that your records retention schedule remains up-to-date and compliant. So if you’re looking for professional assistance to start or refresh your records retention schedule, VRC is here to help.

Related Resources

Purge Shredding for Tax Season
Secure Destruction

A Clean Start: Purge Shredding for Tax Season

Learn More
Benefits of One time Purge Shredding for Small Businesses
Secure Destruction

Benefits of Purge Shredding for Small Businesses

Learn More
HIPAA Compliant Record Storage
BlogHealth Data ExchangeSecure Destruction

The Significance of HIPAA-Compliant Medical Records Shredding

Learn More

Get in Touch with Us.

See how we can help protect your records and documents throughout their life cycle.