With the move from paper to electronic documents, responsibility for recordkeeping within organisations has shifted to individual staff and away from centralised records management specialists.
Much is made of the need for all staff to understand their recordkeeping responsibilities. To this end, many training and communication programs are conducted within government agencies (and elsewhere).
To a large extent, this training has failed. While staff gain a general awareness of recordkeeping, they are not provided with sufficiently concrete and detailed guidance to make their recordkeeping successful and consistent.
This article explores ways to help staff meet their recordkeeping obligations by creating a single sheet of paper for each staff member with everything that they need to know.
Traditional recordkeeping training
Most organisations have fairly well-established staff training programs on recordkeeping, covering topics such as:
- what is a record
- why records need to be kept
- recordkeeping obligations of all staff
- how to file records in corporate record keeping systems
- when and how to dispose of records
Crucially, this training only talks of records in general terms, outlining statements such as ‘records are any documents that provide evidence of a decision or activity’.
In practice, not every document or email should be kept, and these general statements do little to help staff make judgements about what to file.
The training also fails to tell staff where to file individual records, other than generally pointing to the corporate records systems.
Day to day recordkeeping challenges
Recordkeeping obligations will only be met when staff actually file everything that they should in the records management systems.
Day to day, however, staff are left to make value judgements about when and how this should be done.
Does internal correspondence get filed? Where do staff hiring records go?
Furthermore, staff members are not the same as each other. The specific documents that need to be filed by an HR team member vary greatly from those that are important for call centre or admin staff.
A single sheet
Staff need to know exactly what they are supposed to do and this information should be provided to them in the simplest possible way.
To this end, each staff member should be provided with a tailored, personalised single sheet of paper that covers:
- the top six (or a dozen) types of documents that they need to file
- the specific folders each of these documents is filed in
- the documents they don’t have to file
- guidance on common issues or challenges
In addition to listing specific documents to be filed, the guidance should be equally specific, on common issues (such as whether broadcast emails need to be filed by recipients).
To highlight: this is not a general training document, but an individualised ‘cheat sheet’ for each staff member.
If it cannot be distilled down to this simple level, then staff need to find the answers before they can expect other staff to meet their obligations.
This also forces recordkeeping staff to roll out recordkeeping approaches incrementally, identifying the key documents that have to be kept, and those that can be safely disposed of.
While very simple, the ‘single sheet’ approach is quite different to traditional recordkeeping training, and much more effective.
See the earlier article Rolling out a records management system for a broader framework on achieving successful recordkeeping.