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15 Best Practices to Improve Your Retention Schedule

Reduce your risk exposure with a comprehensive Retention Schedule.

Every year new laws and regulations are introduced, many of which will affect your organisation. It is not hard to see why many organisations feel their industry is becoming overregulated.

This overregulation, whether factual or merely perceived as such, places an enormous burden on organisations and in many cases increases operating costs significantly.

Unfortunately, you cannot ignore the laws and regulations governing your industry but you can take steps to improve how you respond to them.


Utilising a Retention Schedule

No matter the size of your organisation, you should be making use of a Retention Schedule. While any retention schedule is better than no retention schedule, it is nonetheless a valuable exercise to review yours and improve it regularly. The following best practices will help you determine what your schedule is lacking so you can better it.


1. Use a Single Organisation Wide Retention Schedule

While divisions and departments within your organisation may have their own specific records that need to be retained, it is better to have an overall Organisation Retention Schedule. This allows for a complete view of all organisation records and creates consistency. Divisions and departments can still be supplied with relevant schedules to follow.


2. Record Classification

Part of creating a Retention Schedule is the classification of your records. Although different organisations may choose to create their own classification nomenclature, the following groupings will do for a good start:

  1. Record Function
  2. Record Class
  3. Record Types


3. Retention Period Research

Once you have classified your records you will need to determine their correct retention periods. This requires research and often-outside help in the form of corporate attorneys and records management specialists will be required.

Your organisation’s own operational retention periods also need to be taken into account.


4. Define ‘Active’ and ‘Inactive’ Records

It is important to determine when records are active and when they are inactive. Once a record becomes inactive, the appropriate retention period count must be started. Thus, you will need to determine for each record classification what triggers to use to determine the transition from active to inactive.


5. Identify ‘Mission Critical’ Records

Not all records are created equal, and naturally, some will be more important than others. These records, labelled, ‘mission critical’ or something else appropriate, need to be identified. Once identified proper controls must be applied to ensure risk is managed, secure access is enabled, and correct retention periods are followed.


6. Official Records vs Convenience Copies

Situations often call for convenience copies to be made of official records. While these copies are not governed by your retention schedule they should nonetheless be kept track of and securely disposed of once they are no longer needed.


7. Reduce Onsite Records

Carry out regular inspections and reviews of your records. It will help you to identify records that are no longer active and these can then be sent to your offsite storage company for safekeeping. This practice will not only reduce storage costs, as office space is typically more expensive than storage space, but it will reduce risk and enhance disaster recovery.


8. Practice Consistent Records Disposal

When your records finally reach the end of their retention period, they need to be disposed of correctly. Use a trusted document disposal company to securely shred your records and issue a certificate of destruction upon completion. Additionally, make sure you utilise a consistent destruction schedule as indiscriminate scheduling may look suspicious and raise questions.

If a legal matter or investigation arises then records disposal operations must be halted immediately even if the Retention Schedule indicates the records can be disposed of.


9. Email Retention Schedule

Emails make up a large number of an organisation’s records. Not all emails however constitute records. Create an Email Retention Schedule that limits or simplifies email classification in order to reduce unnecessary admin that cuts production.


10. Email Retention Compliance

Having an Email Retention Schedule is worthless if it is not applied. Make sure you create an easy to follow process that clearly communicates to your employees which emails must be retained. Check regularly that this process is being followed.


11. Retention Schedule Awareness & Education

Out of sight equals out of mind. Make sure that everyone within your organisation is aware of, and follows your Retention Schedule. While education in the importance of, and use of, your schedule is a given, maintaining awareness is no less important.

Regular education and constant awareness programmes, whether in the form of briefings, posters, or other reminders, must be maintained, in order for your Retention Schedule to be effective.


12. Partner with a Records Management Specialist

Offsite document storage and secure document disposal are important components of any Retention Schedule. Select a trusted partner whose expertise can assist you in the smooth implementation and adherence to your schedule.


13. Use Correct Archiving Solutions

Part of selecting a Records Management Specialist is making sure their archival facilities are up to spec and appropriate for the storage of all your media types. Climate control, pest control, security, fire prevention and containment, must all be assessed prior to moving your records into their data and document storage facilities.


14. Review Your Retention Schedule Regularly

The laws and regulations governing your organisation’s records are unlikely to stay the same indefinitely. To ensure you stay up to date it is important that you review and update your Retention Schedule regularly and carry out legal research often.


15. Measure Compliance with Key Performance Indicators

Determining the value of your Retention Schedule and ensuring compliance and accountability requires a definite set of key performance indicators. Make sure you take the time to identify the right KPIs for your organisation. Then ensure they are measured consistently. KPI’s will help you improve your Retention Schedule, serve as evidence of risk and cost reductions, and earn ongoing support and investment in your Records Management Programme.


Iron Mountain is a leading Records and Information Management company. Our experienced teams and world-class facilities are valued by are ever expanding client base. Do discuss your organisations unique requirements or to find out more about our services and solutions contact us today.


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