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Do you have a records management strategy in place?

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Question: "We're getting concerned where I work that the overwhelming amount of documents and data that we generate every day aren't being safely stored and tracked. We have no one person whose job it is to make sure that important files, customer records, financial statements, logbooks, correspondence, social media content, even security tapes and cellphone records are properly handled and archived—it's way too much for HR when every employee is churning out so much stuff on their own. Does anyone out there actually have a system in place to get a handle on all of this, or are most companies like us, just letting everything stack up in cabinets and fill up the computer network and hoping nothing vital gets lost along the way?" — Geena, Delivery Services Coordinator

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel Blakeman November 12, 2015 at 5:19 pm

It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with records, documents, databases, etc. I work in local government, so we have state and federal laws that guide how we retain our records. Specifically, state government has issued retention schedules for different types of records. Obviously the same thing doesn’t exist for the private sector, but there are guidelines out there for how long you should keep records. It’s helpful to think of the legal, administrative/operational, fiscal and historical reasons to retain information. Just because you have it your possession now doesn’t mean you need to keep it; holding onto it can create a liability if it has sensitive information like Social Security numbers. It can be OK to toss and delete. It is advisable to engage your attorney on how long you have to keep records so you aren’t getting rid of things too soon in case a lawsuit comes about.

To start the process, it’s very helpful to name one person organization wide to take the lead on this project and then work department by department to manage records and data. Start with a pilot department and get their records under control. Look at your records/information comprehensively, both paper and electronic. If you only look at one side, you are unlikely to get a handle on it. Also make it the individual employee/department’s responsibility to manage records retention. The farther removed the records are from the person’s job (i.e. having HR handle it all), the harder it is to know what they should keep or toss since they don’t have the necessary info about the operational side. Thus it’s more likely to keep everything out of fear that someone might need it someday. If you create processes and structures for records management, it’s more likely that you will be able to get a handle on the problem going back to what you have and prevent the problem from reappearing in a few years.

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Jeannette November 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm

This is a major issue for us. But there is something that we do, that is helpful. I have created a Regulatory Correspondence spreadsheet One tab is for correspondence coming in from a regulatory agency, a tab for correspondence going out, a tab for things going to the client and a tab for things coming in from a client. The date, item description, who it is going to or from and so forth is listed. The last column is a hyperlink to the actual document. I defintely wouldn’t put all documents in this but things of a legal or important nature would fit the bill. Thanks.

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Vi October 29, 2015 at 2:42 pm

We don’t have much of a system, but everyone around here is starting to worry more about people hacking into our computer network, so it’s becoming a thing. We have a huge intranet and it’s filled with folders and files that could all be taken or corrupted. There’s no plan for this yet, or even guidelines about what should be kept off it and out of sight. People also store things on their individual computers and never share them. So I guess our answer is … we’re just hoping there’s no catastrophe!

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Kelly October 22, 2015 at 5:08 pm

One of our legal department did ours. They asked all departments what kind of documents that they are responsible for and did a records management procedures and sent it off to the state for sign-off. It tells us everything we need to know about archiving, tossing, and keeping hard copies, even emails. It was sent to the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, Record Management Services, Debra Gearhart, Director and then to the State Administrative Board for final approval.

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Cathy October 22, 2015 at 4:22 pm

There are 3 Admins in our company and each of us is responsible for filing certain items. I file all project-related and proposal paperwork. Another Admin is responsible for the AR/AP records & other accounting paperwork. The 3rd Admin files the general administrative work, Company-related paperwork, and business development items. Our HR person keeps her own files. We do generate quite a bit of paper and it is found in good old-fashioned filing cabinets. Each of us archives items once a year and sends the archive boxes off site. Our computer-generated work ALL gets backed up automatically every night to some cloud thing which I’m not familiar with (we have an outside computer tech help with that). We’ve been separating the workload as mentioned above for several years now and we manage to keep our paperwork in reasonable order where items can be found when needed. Maybe your company can do the same – divide the filing between 2 or 3 people.

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Angie October 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm

In our company nothing goes out of the office without it going through the admin staff. Admin staff are responsible for proof reading, putting it in the company’s standard format, saving it to the file, and then sending it out. This won’t solve all of your problems but it sounds like you need staff whose job it is to monitor this data. Much of the record keeping you mention doesn’t sound like a job for HR.

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