Records Retention Schedules are the backbone to any business’ records management program. As companies examine which documents and media need to be kept and which need to be destroyed, a records retention schedule provides an organization with a structure and policy that illustrates exactly what those requirements are. Employees then have a defined and approved procedure to identify which records need to be kept legally and for operational purposes, and which obsolete records need to be destroyed in a secure and certified manner.
Assuming that businesses can afford to “wing it” when it comes to the retention periods of their data can be a costly and fatal error. Developing and initiating a retention schedule creates a governing document as it pertains to the retention and destruction of all of an organization’s records. A well-developed records management plan relies on a retention schedule to guide a systematic approach to displaying a “reasonable” effort in creating an effective records management strategy. In the case of an audit a business will be able to reference their retention schedule and indicate that policies for retention and destruction are in place and are followed regularly.
Anatomy of a Records Retention Schedule
A retention schedule categorizes an organization’s records into groups based upon similar legal and/or operational requirements. The creation of these categories helps to unify and provide consistency in the retention and disposition of records that share the same requirements. The retention period itself is a specified length of time that each record needs to be kept, and generally is specified in months or years. Of course, legal diligence and research is utilized to justify all requirements, as well as the operational need of each record in question.
The immediate impact that any company who does not implement a records retention schedule will experience is an overabundance of records to maintain and locate. This is not only taxing on your business operations, but also its reputation. Clients depend on your organization’s ability to retrieve and identify information quickly, and when that is not accomplished, will most likely turn to a business who can. The lack of a retention schedule also increases the risk of a breach and can result in heavy fines should a breach occur.
By formulating a records retention schedule, organizations can mitigate unnecessary risks and increase operational efficiency. Examples of what a schedule can do for your business include:
- Maintaining consistency in records retention policy
- An increase in its ability to identify and retrieve files
- Improvement in management of records growth
- An ability to illustrate compliance
- Mitigate legal risk
As businesses examine the implementation of a records retention schedule, a full-service records management firm can be a welcomed helping hand in the process. Williams Data Management’s specialists work with your business to comprehend its unique needs and help formulate a records management plan. A records retention policy governing all departments within a company can go a long way in providing an efficient solution for the growth of any business.