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Records Management Compliance Through Simpler Terminology

Most fields develop their own unique terminology, failing to grasp its terms a field becomes confusing.

Records Management Compliance can be a constant frustration for Records Managers and RM teams. If you are a Records Manager you may have some reality with this. You have a well thought out Records Management Programme and carefully considered Policy. You have created awareness of both and even run workshops and explained how Records Management is vital and beneficial for the organisation.

And yet, you still have a hard time gaining compliance.

It is interesting to note that every field, industry, study etc. evolve its own unique terminology or words used in connection with the subject.


The Problem with Records Management Terminology

If you as a Records Manager were to pick up a textbook about Rocket Science you would probably end up dropping it on the table after reading through the first few pages. Likewise, the Rocket Scientist would probably have similar difficulties with a textbook of Records Management.

It is not that either of these people has less intelligence but rather that they simply do not understand the words being used in connection with the subject.


Examples of Difficult Terminology

For example, a Records Manager, expects non-RM staff to be able to find digitised documents on an image storage system. He explains that they much use the right taxonomies to find what they are looking for. For many staff the term ‘taxonomy’ is unfamiliar and they do not understand what it means. If you told them to use the search function by choosing the right categories and using the right keywords they would be far more likely to find what they are looking for as these terms are likely more familiar.

Another more fundamental example might be the term ‘Records Management’ itself. Before you can expect staff to comply with policy and procedures you must make sure they understand the terms you use. Thus, if you explain what a ‘record’ is and then explain ‘management’ you provide greater clarity.

Other terms that may cause difficulty include:

  • ‘Declare a record’ – better explained as save a record, make a record, mark records as important, etc.
  • ‘Retention period’ – how long a record is stored, storage period, etc.
  • ‘Record Archive’ – could be better explained as a library for records, the storage of records, etc.
  • ‘Retrieval’ – may be better understood as accessing or collection or getting a record for use, etc.

This list, with some additional time, could probably grow considerably. As a Records Manager, it will be well worth your time to create such a list and define or explain Records Management terms in words that non-RM staff can more easily understand.


Gaining Greater Compliance

Thus, the problem of greater Records Management compliance can be solved to a large degree by increasing the understanding of its terminology.

The more a subject and its purposes are understood the more able people are to apply the subject and get the results intended.

Once you have simplified RM terms, you may wish to rerun your workshops and education campaigns using the simplifications. You should see Records Management compliance improve considerably thereafter.



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