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Creating the Records Retention Schedule You Need

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To get all possible benefits from your records management program, you need the right retention schedule. Developing this schedule is critical because it affects many aspects of your organization, from the amount of storage space you need to the effectiveness of your risk management program.

In this blog we’ll take a look at what a records retention schedule is, how it can benefit your organization, and some best practices to help you create the retention schedule you need.

1.0 What is records retention?

Records retention is the process of determining how long an organization needs to keep its records. It is based on operational business needs, legal, and regulatory requirements. Retention schedules specify how long and where records must be kept as they progress through the phases of their life cycle, including whether records are destroyed or archived at the end of their life cycle.

2.0 The benefits of a retention schedule

A properly outlined and legally compliant retention schedule can help minimize costs by reducing the volume of records (paper and electronic), improving accessibility and minimizing risk. Here’s how it works:

  • Storage — The economic objective of a retention program is to stabilize the growth of records by providing for the disposal of obsolete records at about the same time that new ones are created. Many organizations reduce their storage costs by up to one third by implementing a sound retention program.
  • Access — By minimizing the total amount of records in active storage, a records retention program will facilitate and accelerate the day-to-day retrieval of active records.
  • Risk Management — Rather than arbitrary records disposal made selectively by managers and corporate executives, established retention methods help demonstrate that disposal actions are not motivated to suppress or conceal unfavorable evidence or information, should these actions become the subject of criminal or civil proceedings.

3.0 Implementation

It is critical to start the process of developing your retention schedule by building your functional classification system. Once this is done, a review of applicable legislation within all jurisdictions should be completed.

As legal requirements are completed, organizational and operational requirements should be factored in to determine retention time periods for each class of records.

Once the retention schedule is approved, implementation is completed by identifying every record series in your organization.

3.1 What to include

All records need to have established retention periods. The retention schedule is a legal authority that needs to include:

  • A description of the records
  • The retention period of all records in the series
  • The medium used to record / store information
  • Where the records are stored
  • Date and method of records disposition

3.2 What to look for

Records retention determination involves examining and analyzing data collected about specific records series to determine those series’ value. Record values used in determining records retention include the following:

  • Fiscal value
  • Legal value
  • Administrative value
  • Historical value

3.3 Issues to consider

When determining how long individual records series are to be retained, consider the following:

  • Legislative requirements
  • Statute of limitations
  • Organizational and staff requirements
  • Archival requirements

4.0 Your program: critical elements

To ensure the success of your organization’s retention program, check that it
contains the following components:

  • Documentation guidelines
  • Records retention requirements
  • Document storage
  • Archiving and record keeping
  • Records destruction
  • Recordkeeping
  • Annual program review

Next Steps

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