Why you should be using records management

Every business has plenty of records, from finances to legal paperwork. If you’re not keeping them securely organized, you’d better get started.

Shelves of books neatly stacked and labeled clearly

What is records management?

Records management, also known as recordkeeping, is, as the name suggests, the process of organizing and securing an organization’s records. For businesses, this process should run for the company’s full life cycle, meaning the documents stored can reflect the history of the business. Records management is about more than simply having a filing cabinet, though. Successful records management should run on a process that includes the classification, creation, and receipt and maintenance of records. Secure disposal or deletion of an organization’s records should also be part of the recordkeeping process.

The following documents should all be considered for archival by a records manager:

  • Paper documents or other offline form of records
  • Digital documents
  • Contracts
  • Reports
  • Audits
  • Certificates
  • Emails/social media messages
  • Videos

Businesses accumulate these items on a regular basis. That’s precisely why it’s so important to have a regulatory process that can sort the wheat from the chaff and save key items to your vital records. Dropbox serves as valuable modern update on the traditional records center. It doesn’t stop with just hitting save, though. These files need to be maintained, so you’re not only managing new incoming items but also archival management.

Why do businesses need to use records management?

Aside from general admin, there are some vital reasons for a businesses to start managing records. Not only can they prevent you from getting into hot water, if your business is ever accused of anything unsavory, your records can also help you get back out. You shouldn’t assume inactive records are no longer important, either. Here are just some types of records that need to be compliant with certain retention periods in the United States:

IRS

The big one for those in the United States. The IRS will require records of your tax. You should aim to keep these vital records for at least four years.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The FLSA will have different laws for different types of payroll records. Generally, a retention period of at least three years should be sufficient.

Personnel records

Keep these records for at least six years after your employee leaves. This is important as proof that they did, in fact, work at your company but can also help you form references when requested. Should an employee want to take action against you, you will also need to call on these records.

Hiring files

Any files relating to the hiring of a staff member should be kept for around three years. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will require these records to be kept for at least one year.

Other

There are also the less scary records that you should keep for your own peace of mind. Receipts of paid utility bills, welcome emails for new software, and speculative job applications can all be handy to keep on file.

How to set up a records management system

There are important considerations to make before you go ahead and make a records management system. It’s a company-wide process that will require someone at the helm and initial training for the whole team. A successful records management system will need:

A senior member of staff who is responsible for records management

This should not be a blanket duty for anyone in HR, there should be one senior staff member who fully owns this process. Records management is just as important as your finances, and you wouldn’t expect anyone to pitch in to “do their bit” for finances, you have a dedicated team member to serve as document manager and to be lead archivist.

Decisions about how, which, and when records should be kept

Decide with senior staff, and with the input of the rest of the team, which vital records need to be kept. Choose how long the retention period should be and also decide how they should be deleted at the end of the records life cycle. The period of time you keep documents may vary depending on type. For example, your incorporation papers should be among your permanent records, but you can delete employee payroll details after a few years.

Budget for electronic records management

Digital documents likely make up the majority of your business’ admin and correspondence, and to keep this all safe, you will need to turn to information technology. Software as a Service models mean that a records management program isn’t just a one-off fee, but an on-going monthly subscription. Make sure you have budgeted for this.

Allow for training and continuous monitoring

Records may need to be accessed by anyone in your business, and should be a key part of your single source of truth. So, your team will need to be trained in how to access and responsibly handle records as part of a records management program. These are, after all, some of your business’ most important documents, so you will need to enforce data governance and set a records management policy in place. You will also need to continue monitoring this system, especially for digital records, to make sure there is no unauthorized use or accidental deletion, that way you can always be prepared to perform a file recovery before it’s too late. Disaster recovery should also be considered, for example, if your business activities are hit by an internet virus.

Other considerations

If your business performs a public function like utilities, your vital records may be subject to the freedom of information act that governs federal records. That means some areas of your recordkeeping may need to be accessible as public record. Make sure you have added this possibility to your processes as you start introducing bookkeeping to your organization. 

Selecting a solution for business recordkeeping 

Having a proper digital records management system is core to the records management process. Dropbox is a powerful file storage solution which is perfect for records management, offering all the tools you need to securely store files plus plenty more features to make your overall workflows and information management easier. You can also move your paper records into your digital archive with easy document scanning. Enjoy advanced team controls, password-protection, and time-limited access for top-notch security and information governance. Better still, with the extended version history add-on, you can recover changed or deleted files for up to 10 years. 

With Dropbox, you can rest assured that records are completely safe without being hidden or inaccessible to authorized users.

The information above is not intended to be legal advice. We recommend you consult an attorney if you have any legal questions.

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