Setting Records Management Policy

Getting Buy-in for Records Management

There are two ways to get your organization to rally around a solid records management policy: proactively, by involving colleagues throughout the process; or reactively, when you need a policy in place and working now.

Obviously, the first option is the most effective and least disruptive. Yet many employees, from entry level to C-suite, view records management as a thankless chore at best — or an expensive duty to be ignored at worst. Even the best policy is worthless if your people at all levels aren’t engaged.

Here are a few steps you can take to generate support for your RIM program:

  1. Create the right policy. Do a complete assessment of your organization’s records management processes, both formal and informal, and articulate what’s required to meet operational, legal and regulatory expectations. This assessment should take into account the resources you have available, from infrastructure to budget to staff. Some companies, especially those in highly regulated industries, have specific compliance standards for records. Others may not need a policy that’s so stringent. But every policy should provide guidelines to ensure all company records are managed and protected throughout their lifecycle with consideration to laws and regulations as well as business needs. That means having a policy that takes into account the entire spectrum of document creation, management and destruction. The policy also should define individual responsibilities and establish training programs for those who are accountable.
  2. Be inclusive. Involving people throughout the organization in the development and implementation process accomplishes two important things: 1. You are more likely to cover all the angles and avoid pitfalls, and 2. You have created a group of champions to help with the rollout. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson used an army of volunteers called the Four Minute Men to tour U.S. theaters and promote the war effort during intermission. It worked — showing the power of personal advocates in garnering broad support.
  3. Communicate in context. Do you need support for your policy from senior executives? Then make sure you present the policy in their language: e.g., “Investing in this records management policy will yield X return on investment, and avoid Y costs from lack of access to key business data or due to noncompliance.” When you explain the policy in the context of the business, top management will understand why it’s important. The same is true with the rank and file; help them see that they are meeting a critical business need when they embrace the RIM policy. Sadly, surveys show as few as 27 percent of companies with records management policies include training and communication plans. Keep the message simple, clear, consistent, and relevant. Have an easily accessible resource guide for answering questions.
  4. Integrate the policy with normal business processes. Making records management part of the daily routine will help with implementation. For electronic records, that might involve an electronic content management solution (software that tracks access, revisions and location for easy retrieval). For paper records, simple guidelines for employees to manage active records and archive inactive records, regular training programs, clear retention schedules and frequent reminders should prove helpful. Make sure some of those reminders come from senior executives so the weight of leadership is behind them. Also, when fostering employee engagement, never underestimate the power of regular dialogue, positive reinforcement and recognition.
  5. Measure the impact. In designing your policy, you should look at ways to measure its success — retention schedule compliance, efficiency standards, speed and accuracy of document retrieval, overall return on investment, etc. Over time, measure how well the policy helps your organization meet those metrics, and report the results to all internal stakeholders. This may involve specific examples of issues that were addressed or avoided due to having well-managed records, or it may be simple facts and figures. In either case, if people see their efforts are having a positive impact on the organization, they will be more inclined to keep adhering to the policy.

Records and information management tends to be low on the priority list in many companies until a crisis strikes. Demonstrating the value of the proactive approach to all stakeholders should go a long way in moving your RIM program up the list.

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Abraxas knows how to communicate records management policy in straightforward, meaningful ways to generate support and compliance. We provide clients with tailored records and information management solutions, delivering the business intelligence that matters most — and we do it more efficiently and reliably than anyone else, particularly in highly regulated industries. To learn more, email or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.