How to create an effective records management policy: Part 2

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As the new year unfolds, you may be preparing to revamp your existing RM programs or to roll out new ones.

Unfortunately, many good records managers have seen their programs fail because their accompanying RM policies were poorly documented or poorly implemented. To ensure the success of your records management program, it is essential to have a strong RM policy to go with it!

But how to you create a workable and effective RM policy?

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the importance of following best practices when creating your RM policy.

These best practices included: consultations with key stakeholders, clearly identifying roles and responsibilities, and using clear language in the policy itself.

Here are four additional best practices to round out the list.

4. Focus on value to obtain buy-in from staff

Every RM program is ultimately designed to deliver tangible business value – so make sure management and staff know what those benefits are! Depending on the nature of your program and the particular audience you are addressing, these benefits may include:

  • cost savings
  • improved compliance with legislative or industry standards
  • support for larger corporate policy directives
  • time and effort saved for front-line staff

5. Be prepared to enforce the policy

A records management policy is a legally binding statement of corporate direction. However, it is up to everyone to make sure the policy is adhered to on an ongoing basis. For the records management team, this means specifying in the policy the steps you’ll take to ensure compliance, as well as listing the consequences of non-compliance.

6. Keep it brief and simple

With so much to cover in an RM policy, it’s easy to see how it can potentially become a very large document. However, as much as possible, it is best to keep the policy documentation brief and straightforward. In order to do this, you may want to enlist staff members to review the draft policy and offer their feedback. Is it clear and easy to understand? Could it be trimmed down without losing essential information?

7. Allocate time and resources for implementation

So far, we have devoted our discussion to the development of the policy itself. However, none of those efforts will count for much unless you devote adequate time and resources to bringing that policy to life.

An effective RM policy provides mandates for action, so once the policy is finalized and endorsed, all departments and individuals with identified roles should begin meeting their responsibilities head on. For example, if the policy attempts to enforce compliance via an audit process, then perform audits as soon as it is feasible to do so, taking any and all steps appropriate to remedy instances of non-compliance. Education is also very important. Ultimate responsibility for this rests with the RM team, but you can share the load by enlisting the help of departmental managers and “super users”.

Would you add anything to the list? What are your experiences with RM policies? Let us know in the comments!

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