It’s a common mistake in records and information management (RIM) to put all your focus on creating your records retention schedule (RRS) and neglect what comes next: implementation. Lax planning, poor preparation, and a lack of oversight will frustrate even the best efforts in creating an RRS and expose your organization to unnecessary risks. Don’t fall into this trap! Your ‘perfect’ RRS is meaningless if it is not thoughtfully and consistently implemented across your organization.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we discussed some of the key challenges and best practices for information collection and creating a simplified RRS. In this part three, we’ll discuss implementation—the other half of your RRS battle. This article will introduce you to some of the fundamental steps and useful tips for successfully implementing your RRS.
Take it From the Top Down
Any organization’s culture of compliance starts at the top, with the words, actions, and leadership of higher-level executives. Accordingly, it is imperative to establish a senior-level steering committee to oversee your organization’s RRS implementation efforts. This committee should include executives from all relevant areas, but IT, compliance, and legal are essential. This sends a loud and clear message about the importance of your organization’s records management policy and the RRS, as well as the priorities of company leadership.
In the middle, appointed records coordinators and stakeholders with knowledge of your organization’s records are essential to successfully implementing your RRS and other records program objectives. Records coordinators and stakeholders have a key role in business operations. This makes them ideally positioned to help put your records policy into practice and help resolve issues as they arise. That brings us to our first RRS implementation tip: Leverage those folks you identified and established great working relationships with during the information collection phase!
Position these individuals to be champions for your RRS among their colleagues and ideal records coordinators. Having them as allies and advocates will be tremendously helpful during your next phase of RRS implementation: your rollout.
Plan for Your Rollout
A solid strategy and implementation plan for your rollout must include a communication campaign, training, auditing, and metrics, to name a few. Also, take your time and carefully evaluate what resources you’ll need along the way. Two of the biggest missteps we most often hear about from clients are underestimating the scope of resources and the amount of time required for the rollout effort. So, for our second tip: Slow your Roll!
To help with this, consider rolling out in phases, starting with a pilot targeting a singular business area. This will help to make the process more manageable. It will also allow you to gauge any initial issues and fine-tune the process moving forward. Next in your process, but of no less importance:
Communicate! Communicate with Everyone!
The RRS and the organization’s overall records management policy must clearly state that records management is every employee’s responsibility. Everybody is sending email, creating documents, and utilizing messenger apps to generate records. However, with this comes the responsibility to manage and preserve these records. In your policy and follow-up communications, you must make clarify that the primary sender, recipient, or owner of each record is in the best position to manage and preserve it.
RRS simplicity and communication are the most important aids to successful implementation. Reminders and updates should be sent regularly. And don’t forget: communication isn’t a one-way street! Ensure that individuals throughout the organization know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.
But what are the best methods for communicating RRS obligations? Communication campaigns may be sent through routine channels such as internal employee memos and bulletins, but don’t be afraid to get creative on this! This brings us to your next tip: Find fun and interesting ways to communicate RIM updates and objectives.
Many perceive that RIM is a dry subject. But it doesn’t have to be. Records management communications can be more interesting and engaging through games, quizzes, trivia, etc. I may be biased, but RIM is fun! Your creativity doesn’t have to stop with your communications, either. One great area to use creativity is in our next topic for discussion: training.
Make Training a Thing
Training is truly an indispensable tool for implementing organizational change. It should be part of the employee onboarding process, and all employees should participate in refreshers. Consistency is key to engraving records management processes and RRS into employees’ day-to-day routines. The training materials, policies, procedures, and RRS should be centrally available and always accessible. Also, and for our fourth tip: Create easy-to-follow slide decks and videos for training purposes.
Further, don’t be afraid to find ways to reward compliance through various incentives, including financial, awards, or other types of special recognition.
Check-Ins & Measurable Results
As they say, the proof is in the pudding! Put your program to the test by conducting periodic audits. Perform these annually, at least. Gather measurable data points and metrics to confirm compliance. Leverage the results to focus on and recalibrate areas not meeting standards. So, for our final tip: Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your program. This helps you measure progress towards your organization’s goals.
Also, make sure your KPIs are discrete, concrete, and demonstrate positive benefits and risk mitigation.
An RRS that exists on paper or in name only leads to fictional compliance and a false sense of security. Don’t let your organization fall victim to the adverse risks, costs, and other consequences of a poorly implemented RRS. Through efforts like a detailed implementation plan, careful rollout, consistent enforcement, and regular reinforcement, your organization can avoid the most common pitfalls surrounding RRS non-compliance. Follow these tips and your implementation efforts are more likely to foster a culture where RRS adherence is second nature. To learn how our retention schedule management solution can help you develop and maintain your records retention schedule, contact Zasio.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.
Author: Jennifer Chadband, IGP, CRM, ECMp
Senior Analyst / Licensed Attorney