Creating a Document Retention Policy That Really Works

48562302_s.jpgA good document retention policy is one that dictates and outlines how the personnel of an organization are to handle all of the organization’s information. It defines which documents are “records” and it ensures that employees properly manage these valuable documents from the point when they are generated up until they are destroyed. 

It safeguards the organization and offers operational efficiency by saving time and money. It eliminates the need to rifle through piles of boxes or filing cabinets when documents are retrieved. It also ensures that old documents that have reached their retention threshold are deleted, reducing the risks and cost of any potential future litigation. 

However, every organization is different. When creating a document retention policy, organizational needs must be taken into consideration. A document retention policy that may work for one organization may not necessarily work for another. Below, we offer suggestions on how to create a sound document retention policy for your organization. 

Although each organization has their individual needs, particular features need to be addressed in each policy. Some of the most important things to consider when creating a document retention policy includes:

Storage Duration and Location 

Whether electronic or paper documents, defining the location of where records are to be stored and how long they must be kept is pivotal. It is essential that exact time frames are outlined for particular documents.

Destruction 

In regard to destroying documents, your organization’s retention policy must detail the correct procedures necessary for destroying documents when their retention period has elapsed.

Bookkeeping 

Offering a reserve or storage system for electronic information and tracking what is stored and where is crucial for all organizations. Think of it as your digital filing cabinet.

Litigation 

When a lawsuit or inquiry is pending, guidelines must be outlined that identify how appropriate information is to be maintained in support of litigation. Safeguards must be put in place to prevent he accidental or purposeful deletion of these documents.

Uniformity 

Ensuring that your document retention policy is coherent and uniform is critical. It must outline information in a way that can be adhered to consistently. One of the advantages of implementing and following a good document retention policy is that it can protect you and your organization from discovery of out of date records if you delete documents according to the policy. If the policy is not uniformly followed, this protection may be eliminated.

Identification of Administrators 

Stipulate which individuals are in control of maintaining, updating, implementing and ensuring that the retention policy is maintained and followed.

Geography 

Consider all of your locations, the tools that they have available to them and the rules that they must follow may differ.

Penalties 

While implementing a well-defined retention policy and educating everyone on the policy is normally the best way to get good results. However, there should be consequences for those who intentionally violate the policy. Explicitly outlining the fines and consequences ascribed to those who are non-compliant with the policies is crucial. It informs individuals of who is involved and helps to coax them to adhere to its rulings.

Recovery 

Communicating the procedures and methods required for efficiently organizing stored records is imperative. Implementing a good electronic system will ensure that they are recovered effortlessly. 

Documents are essential for organizations as they offer pertinent information for the organization itself and for its clients. It is critical that the maintenance and destruction of records be correctly adhered to in order to ensure that information is not used wrongfully. Having a document retention policy that explicitly outlines the correct procedures for documents from creation to destruction will ensure that your company continues to operate resourcefully at all times. 

The experts at CASNET can help you develop a document retention policy that will meet your organization needs and convert historical paper records that must be maintained making a lasting positive impact on your company.

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