Records Management Process in Organizations

Instructor: Sherrie Lawson

Sherrie has taught over 20 courses in Business, Management, or Leadership and has a Master's in Organizational Leadership.

Most organizations deal with large amounts of information on a regular basis and require a records management process. Learn how a records management process assists organizations in creating, classifying, and managing their documents.

What Is Records Management?

File Management

Records management is the system used to control an organization's records from the creation of the record until the record is archived or destroyed. A records management process is comprised of identifying records, classifying records, and storing records, as well as coordinating internal and external access. The process may also incorporate policies and practices on how to create and approve records, as well as the enforcement of those policies and practices.

Many organizations must deal with large amounts of information on a daily basis. Productive organizations incorporate a comprehensive, effective records management process into their daily operations.

Before developing a records management process, an organization must be able to determine what constitutes a record. Let's begin by defining an organizational record. An organizational record is any document that contains information about a transaction, activity, or event related to the organization.

The record can be stored on paper or electronically via email, digital file, database, or spreadsheet. Records also can be photographs, audio files, or videos. Some examples of record classifications are legal, financial, historical, and daily operations. An effective records management process contains at least five components: record creation, internal and external record distribution, record usage, record maintenance, and record archival and disposal.

Record Creation

At the beginning of any records management process is the creation of the record. There are many ways to create business records. Sending or receiving an email, creating a spreadsheet, database or document, or receiving a document from outside the organization all create records. And contracts, budgets, bank statements, policy manuals, and meeting minutes are all things that can be considered records. It is important to note that every piece of paper or email may not be worth keeping. It is up to the organization to determine the criteria for record creation.

Let's use a policy change document as an example. Say the Human Resources department makes a change to the vacation policy. They update a digital copy of the employee handbook and send an email to all employees indicating the change. The sent email could constitute the creation of a new record.

Record Distribution

Once a record is created, an organization must determine its distribution method. Should the record be emailed, or printed and physically distributed? For externally distributed records, will it be emailed or delivered via mail or a delivery service?

In the example of the vacation policy update, the record has been emailed to all employees. By using an internal, secured email system, the organization can use ''read receipts'' to ensure that all employees received notification of the change. The organization should have policies in place that determine internal and external distribution methods.

Record Usage

After a record is created or received, a records management process can assist in determining how the record should be used. Will the record be used to make a decision, determine a direction, or in some other way? An organization needs to have a way to classify records.

An update to the employee handbook may be considered an operations or human resources record because it deals with how employees take their vacation time. The email sent to communicate the change could be classified as legal since a ''read receipt'' would provide proof that the organization notified all employees of the change.

Record Maintenance

In addition to the creation and distribution of records, an organization must determine how to maintain the records. How will the records be filed or stored, and how will they be accessed? Any record, whether it be paper or digital, should be able to be easily located. It should be in a safe and confidential space.

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