How to create an effective records management policy: Part 1

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Many records managers we speak to share a common concern: a lack of adherence to the company’s records management policy.

Whether it is a new policy or an existing policy, the worst nightmare is that it will become nothing more than a binder on a shelf, collecting dust.

But how do you avoid that? How to you create a living, breathing, records management policy that ensures compliant employee behavior on a daily basis?

While each company’s policy will be different, there are some proven steps you can take to create a more successful and effective RM policy. These best practices – which we have seen used by many successful RM teams – apply to new RM policies as well as to existing policies.

These tips will be helpful to keep in mind as you plan your program updates for the coming year!

1. Understand the needs of stakeholders

Records management policies must serve the needs of the organization as a whole, but also the individual staff members and departments. These groups include the legal department, individual business units and your IT team. An RM policy that is created with the needs of these stakeholders in mind has a much better chance of being supported and actually adhered to once it has been put in place

2. Identify roles & responsibilities

The effectiveness of your RM policy depends on its ability to make it clear to all staff exactly what is expected of them. The policy should specify the roles and responsibilities for the RM program throughout its development, implementation and maintenance. These roles might include:

  • Executive sponsor or project champion
  • Records management “super users”, responsible for helping roll out the policy within individual departments
  • Managers responsible for policy compliance among their direct reports
  • End users and staff responsible for carrying out RM-related tasks on a daily basis.

As you identify roles and make it clear to every staff member what is expected, you create accountability, which is a key element of success.

3. Make the policy language clear

This goes hand in hand with our preceding tip. The policy should be written using language and terminology that will be understood by all staff. Avoid using technical jargon and eliminate all ambiguity from the directions. For example, if a certain practice is mandatory, use words like “must”, rather than “should”. This not only makes it clearer, it creates a binding legal requirement that paves the way for enforcement at a later time, should that be necessary.


In next week’s blog post we will wrap up our list of best practices, focusing on employee buy-in, enforcement, implementation.

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