by Brianna Cochran
By now, you’re probably aware your government is legally required to comply with records management laws. Though it is often difficult to motivate yourself, colleagues, or supervisors to implement something just because it’s required. It’s human nature to resist things we perceive as difficult, time-consuming, or obligatory.
The records management assistance (RMA) team at TSLAC wants records management to be as fun as possible! While it’s true compliance with records management laws is required, implementing a sound records management program doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or feel like an obligation. After all, having a strong records management program provides many benefits for your office including offering legal protection, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, improving public perception of your office, and protecting essential records.
In this article, we will elaborate on the benefits of good records management practices mentioned above. We hope this serves as a helpful resource for state and local government employees, to help encourage good records management practices in your offices.
5 Benefits of Records Management
1. Offers Legal Protection
Following the legal requirements outlined in our published laws and rules offers legal protection to your office. For example, it’s a legal risk to keep records too long or not long enough. In the case of litigation or an audit, your office may have to turn over records that could’ve been destroyed years ago, or even worse, may be unable to turn over records that were destroyed too soon. Adhering to our published retention schedules and disposing records according to schedule helps mitigate this legal risk.
2. Increases Efficiency (Frees Up Time and Space)
A good records management program also keeps your office running more efficiently, because you won’t have people wasting time and effort hunting for information. People will spend more time trying to find records if there is a high volume of them in storage, and that affects overall efficiency for your office. Disposing records in a timely manner, according to a set time frame, will free up storage space and make it easier to access the records you really need.
3. Reduces Costs
Good records management also saves money! When you’re freeing up storage space and improving your efficiency, that also keeps your costs down. Keeping too many records beyond their retention periods can result in higher storage and maintenance costs. Paying for more physical filing cabinets or increased server space than you need wastes money.
4. Improves Public Perception
Governments following good records management practices also enjoy the benefit of remaining in good standing with the public. On the flip side, bad records management practices often result in negative public perception. Even the well-intentioned act of getting rid of a huge quantity of records after a long time of not doing so might look suspicious. It’s best to practice disposition regularly and according to schedule to avoid negative perception.
5. Protects Essential Records
An active records management program will also help protect the agency’s vital, historically valuable, or permanent records from things like pests, mold, theft, or security breaches. Failing to protect these records can lead to potential criminal penalties and fines. For example, intentionally destroying a record before it’s met retention can result in a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a fine of up to $4000.
Better Practices Going Forward
If you know that records management simply wasn’t done well in the past because people didn’t know any better, don’t stress out too much, but you’ll want to ensure better practices going forward.
Our website offers many resources for improving your records management program, including links to more information about compliance forms, laws and rules, training, retention schedules, records center storage, and imaging services. You may also be interested in our blog articles covering frequently asked questions, available on our Just the FAQs page.
As always, for help implementing new or improving existing records management programs, getting compliance paperwork sorted, or anything else records management-related, please contact your analyst. The RMA team is happy to help, and that’s what we’re here for!