Record Retention: Big Tips for Small Businesses

In part three of our Q & A with records pro Helen Streck of Kaizen InfoSource, we learn why it’s important for even small-sized businesses to stay on top of record retention schedules.

Helen goes on to say that with small organizations, it’s a little harder because they don’t (necessarily) have a records or information manager who can be dedicated to the work. It may be an office manager who is responsible for 3 to 4 other things, someone in IT, or the Finance Director. Each organization will differ in who is managing it.

Chin up, even the little guy can and should have a record retention schedule. Here, Helen gives a few important pointers, pulled from Part 3 of our exclusive interview.

Q. Can smaller organizations keep a handle on record retention schedules as easily as larger organizations?

A. If your retention policy is written well and your program is put together well, it becomes something that can be managed internally. So, every organization should have a records program of some level of service (that can be followed by your employees no matter the size of your company). If you make the retention public, keep it on the intranet, this way every employee knows how long to keep files.

Q. Are there consequences for keeping documents too long or not long enough?

A. If litigation happens you’ll have to produce everything you have if you don’t properly destroy your documents according to a retention schedule. There are some situations where an individual can be sued as well as the company. I tell the executives that you have a vested interest in only retaining what you need to retain to do your business and be in compliance.

pro tip

Work with outside experts like Corodata to help you store and destroy your documents according to your retention schedule.

Talk to a Corodata expert »

Q. I’ve read stories of finding employee records in the trash (that were not properly destroyed), and obviously that’s a worse-case scenario. Can you talk more about record retention compliance in Human Resources departments?

Employee records have a lot of confidential information. The retention varies a lot from private to public agencies. HR retains these files for a very long time. It is not the agency’s job to manage the files for the individual. Instead, at an exit interview, give them a copy of the personnel file. Keep it as long as you are required to keep it by law, and then just give it to them. There are no more changes to this file, their employment is done.

Q . Any advice about record retention schedules you’d like to add?

A.

Get started. Doing nothing costs you money, you just don’t know it. Get started because it can be done. Get started, but do it in small incremental steps. And you’re going to find yourself in a better place, a more compliant place.

Listen to to the full exclusive interview with Helen Streck (Part 1-3)

In this last part of the File Tips podcast series, Helen also goes into key tips on how to write work emails that will keep you out of trouble. (Trust us, you’re doing it wrong.) As Helen puts it: “We’re all guilty of it. No-one is absolved.