Guidelines for Establishing a Records Retention Schedule

by | Oct 15, 2018 | Law and Records Management | 0 comments

records retention

Those entrusted with organizing and maintaining records retention for an organization have no small task. Numerous factors must be taken into consideration that will help to determine just how big of a task it can be. Some of the factors that determine how complicated can include—the size of the organization, complexity of the records, and the resources available for those organizing the records. Here are a few steps that can help make organizing and establishing a schedule an easier task.


A first step for those in charge of organizing records should be to thoroughly plan. Part of this requires getting to know the organization inside and out and how they work and function. It is important for these individuals to know the organization and become familiar with each department within the organization. Request each department to send a representative or coordinator to assist in planning a retention schedule. This enables representatives, who are establishing the retention schedule, to work closely with someone from each department.   Together they plan how they want to conduct an inventory of current records and decide on what methods to use going forward.

Take Inventory of Records

This part of the process is dependent on those working directly with the organization’s documents. After completing the planning phase, those responsible for establishing the retention schedule will be able to explain the expectations, purpose, and initiatives for the schedule. Information to gather during the inventory phase should include:

  • Title and types of documents
  • Description
  • Business value
  • Suggested historical value
  • Legal requirements to keep
  • Media
  • Format
  • Analysis, Sorting, and Research

The inventory phase is a good opportunity for those establishing the  schedule to analyze and request clarification as needed. It is imperative for those in charge to determine what the regulations are and statute of limitation requirements are for specific records. You should consult with either the legal team or accountants to learn precisely how long to keep records.

Draft and Review

Once all the necessary research and inventory is complete, a rough draft of the retention schedule should be created. Review the draft and make any significant changes as needed.


At this stage, this step will be different for each organization. With a completed retention schedule drafted, it is time to obtain a final approval. Depending on the organization, approval may be necessary from the business representative, managers, or owners.

Ongoing Maintenance

Once the retention schedule has been approved, implementation should begin immediately. After implementation, it will be important to continue communicating with the different departments and those maintaining the records retention. Along with communication, those responsible for the retention will need continuing education and training to track law changes and changes in the organization.  It will be up to the records management staff to regularly review, supplement, and modify the retention requirements to keep up with research and organizational changes.

IRCH has years of experience developing records retention schedules and are the experts on records requirements and policies. Please contact us to begin building a custom retention solution.

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