A company’s records retention schedule (RRS) needs proper retention periods for their records and information. So, what do these retention periods do? They help designate information you should retain and tell you how long to keep it. In fact, once you finalize and implement well-defined retention periods, they can help ensure you properly and consistently retain and dispose of information company-wide. If you don’t want to suffer the risks of non-compliance or over retention, you need to define solid and up-to-date retention periods.

There are several things to think about as you research appropriate RRS retention periods. The following are just a few:

  • Legal/Regulatory – The most well-known retention period drivers are legal and regulatory requirements. Depending on the size of a company, there may be hundreds or thousands of retention requirements. These include the federal and state level, both domestically and internationally. If you’re not a records retention expert, this probably sounds intimidating. And how do you decide what the requirements mean? Generally, these requirements tell you the minimum retention periods, although privacy requirements also provide maximum retention. There’s more: ancillary handling requirements, such as format and location, regulate the way you should maintain records. Feel overwhelmed yet? Reach out to a legal counsel or third-party research company that specializes in this area of law. They can more easily identify the legal and regulatory requirements that apply to your company.
  • Operational – Usually, the requirements on everyone’s minds are operational. These include retention periods for records and information you need to meet your business needs. You will probably gather this information through interviews with company stakeholders. Examples of operational justifications include audit, fiscal, or reference purposes.

Legal/regulatory and operational factors are a just few to consider as you lay out your RRS. If you consider this information, you will increase the likelihood that you will comply with the law and adhere to the RRS. Ultimately, proper retention periods help maximize the usefulness of your company’s records and information and minimize risks that come with over retention.

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Author: Jennifer Chadband, Senior Records Analyst