Whether you are a new startup or an established company, it is essential to include a document retention schedule as part of your company’s policies. An established policy will describe the standardized procedures for reviewing, retaining, and destroying documents that are processed or created during regular business.
In the event of litigation, having a policy already in place, that is enforced and followed by all employees can be a lifesaver.
Here are six tips to help establish a retention schedule for your organization.
- Select a Person to Oversee To ensure that your newly developed policy is a success, appoint someone to be directly responsible for it. This person can be appointed to manage the entire process, or better yet, they can manage an oversight committee that will lead the work on the new policy. Be sure to include department representatives, members from IT, and your legal team as part of the oversight committee.
- Assess and Prioritize the Scope of the Project Before beginning to establish a retention policy, start by defining the scope and timeline to complete the task. Establishing this information, prior to starting the task, will make it easier to accomplish. Additionally, establishing a timeline and scope will help to ease any tensions going into the project, therefore, making it more manageable.
- Consult with Data Management and IT Personnel This step is important, especially for those tackling this project alone. Consulting with both data management and IT personnel will help to guarantee that all forms and documents that arecreated, stored, and preserved at your business are accounted for. This will also help to ensure that all the electronic documents and data are also taken into consideration.
- Review State and Federal Laws
It is imperative that your retention policy is compliant with both state and federal laws and regulations. Compliance will help you determine the length of time to retain documents
- Instructions on Storing, Retaining and Preserving Documents
Provide detailed instructions for company staff concerning how to store, retain and preserve the documents they create and store. This ensures that stored documents can easily and quickly be located when needed.
Establish a classification system, such as confidential or sensitive and provide instructions on how these documents will be protected. Additional information will include the length of time in which documents must be stored and how to properly destroy documents after the time has expired. Knowing how to safely destroy documents protects a company, since restaining fewer documents reduces risk in the event of a data breach.
- Review and Update Periodically
Once your document retention policy has been established and implemented, it has to be reviewed and updated periodically. This ensures that your policies remain compliant with changing laws, technology, business records and documents.