Every business, school, nonprofit, and government agency in the United States is required to retain certain records to satisfy industry, legal, and regulatory requirements.
The types of records marked for storage can be diverse. Some companies hold onto every customer correspondence, employee email, and social media post. Their list may also include television commercials, radio spots, and digital banner ads. Some information is kept on file for years; other information is stored permanently.
It’s important to have a document retention system in place to categorize and organize these files. Companies with effective systems can save time searching for records and avoid potential liability. Controlling the volume of files can cut storage costs, too. Once a system has been established, a document retention schedule lets associates know what document series are stored, how long they should be retained, and how they should be destroyed.
Organizing the files is a large part of the process. Getting buy-in from management and associates can be equally time-consuming. It’s also important to protect confidential information and prepare for emergencies. Follow the tips below to build a document retention schedule that is effective for your business or organization.
5 Things to Know When Building a Document Retention Schedule
1. Know the current process. Learn how each department handles documents. Find out which versions are stored (e.g., original, final, or working documents) and when the document lifecycle begins (e.g., at creation or execution). Check to see if the current process meets the latest government and regulatory requirements.
2. Know how to communicate to senior management. Create a high-level presentation that explains the importance of document retention and the possible consequences of not implementing one. Executives can provide the time and budget you need to create a retention system. They can also lend their titles to internal communications when the new system launches.
3. Know how to handle confidential information. Document the protocols for confidential paper and electronic records as well as microfilm, audio and video tape, photographs, and prints. Specify who has permission to access these files and who has permission to destroy or archive them, including any third-party vendors. Provide details about the proper way to dispose of confidential records.
4. Know how to handle an emergency. Company documents hold sensitive information about the business, its customers, and its partners. When weather, fire, smoke, or mold cause damage to important documents, recovery needs to be timely and professional. An emergency plan can be invaluable for companies.
5. Know how to create advocates for the document retention schedule. The best document retention plan will fall apart if associates do not comply with it. Before rollout, schedule working sessions with key stakeholders to talk through different scenarios together. Once this group understands the new schedule and the logic behind it, they can advocate for the new system when it rolls out companywide.
Polygon has a proven record in document recovery and restoration, including work with financial firms after Super Storm Sandy, schools, libraries, and more. Contact Polygon to learn more about document retention and recovery.